The Austin City Council voted Thursday night after a two-hour debate to temporarily extend the juvenile curfew through Oct. 1 in a compromise.
Many had been in favor of eliminating the curfew outright. However, as the debate went on, questions grew about how police would interact with children seen out late at night.
In the end, the the council voted 7-4 to extend the night-time curfew for people under the age of 17 to Oct. 1. The ordinance was also changed to mandate that police only give warnings on the first two violations. A third could result in a $500 fine and a conviction of a class C misdemeanor, though curfew violations usually do not result in a conviction, according to court staff.
The extension was put in place after about 30 people spoke against the curfew and a two-hour debate that got somewhat tangled in amendments. Council members Greg Casar, Kathie Tovo, Delia Garza and Mayor Steve Adler voted against extending the curfew.
“I am against because it can affect a lot of teenagers, especially ones like me,” said Kevin Alvarez, one of several teenagers to speak out against the curfew. “We know we are being targeted because we look different, and we are also scared because it could stain our record.”
The night-time curfew makes it illegal for anyone under 17 to be out in public or in a business between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The day-time curfew, which does essentially the same thing between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on school days, was not extended.
The possibility of the council killing the curfew on Thursday suffered a major setback when Council Member Ellen Troxclair switched sides. Troxclair said she remained against the curfew, but thought it was a reasonable compromise to offer a temporary extension while a panel of stakeholders looks at alternatives.
Austin police interim Chief Brian Manley said that police are relied upon to ensure the safety of juveniles. Manley said that without a curfew, his officers would not be able to detain juveniles found in crime-ridden neighborhoods late at night.
Manley said officers would still be able to approach youths and inquire about their safety, but nothing would prevent the child from walking away or refusing to answer questions. And if that situation suddenly escalated into a use-of-force scenario, it could expose police officers and the police department to litigation.