Sunday, March 21, 2010

An idea whose time has come?

For your perusal from the Herald-Zeitung.

Curfew will empower police

New Braunfels Police Chief Ron Everett brought up the idea of a curfew for children 16 and under at this past week’s city council meeting.

Though the proposal was not “official”, Everett had already done his homework. A lot of research and had already set down the groundwork for how the curfew would work.

Chief Everett said he saw a need for a curfew that would keep children 16 and under off the streets from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and between midnight and 6 a.m. on the weekends. Students would not be allowed out during school hours between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., he said, unless they are with a parent or on a school trip.

It’s a measure New Braunfels found unnecessary for years because it was a town small enough that you probably knew the children you passed on the streets and had a direct line to their parents if they were misbehaving.

Several nearby cities, like San Marcos and Seguin, already have curfews, Everett said, and Seguin’s has been in place for a decade.

Se♦guin Police Department’s Captain of Operations Maureen Watson said the curfew there had the support of the community and had been effective in reducing the incidences of certain types of crime.

The fact that the local police believe a curfew is now needed in New Braunfels to limit graffiti and drug and alcohol related crimes underscores how much our community has changed.

In the past two years, Everett said, the average age of juveniles apprehended is 14.

In 2008, police referred 420 teens to juvenile probation. In 2009, that number rose to 469 referrals.

Chief Everett said about 87 juveniles were victims of crimes or criminal mischief in the city two years ago, and 125 this past year.

Those figures include all times of day, not just during curfew hours.

The idea that a juvenile criminal will not commit a crime because of a curfew might be naive. If they were worried about breaking a law, violating a curfew might not be of much of a deterrent.

What a curfew would do is empower police to pull over any youthful looking driver or pedestrian for questioning once a curfew is enacted.

Maybe the time has come to New Braunfels when a curfew is needed, but city council must recognize that a curfew vastly expands a probable cause-like power for police.

How this curfew is enforced and how the curfew is used will ultimately decide whether the community would continue to support it.