Houston City Council is debating whether to decriminalize the city's curfew policy.
Mayor Sylvester Turner wants to eliminate the daytime curfew, reduce the fine against teenagers who break curfew, and instruct police to take them home or to a shelter before issuing a citation.
“If they're still resistant on that, then that is when the recommendation will be to send them to teen court,” Turner said during Wednesday's public hearing.
“A criminal conviction does not protect children,” said Tony Sangueza at the Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Justice. “In fact, it makes them more likely to end up in the criminal justice cycle. It makes them more likely to end up dropping out.”
Councilman Greg Travis argued curfews are necessary.
“We do love these kids and we want them to have a happy and healthy life,” said Travis. “But part of that is not being out at certain times of night when nothing is open, when nothing good can happen.”
Councilman Mike Knox served 15 years at HPD, and helped create the department's first gang unit in 1988.
“So we're arguing about $20, an offense that couldn't possibly be used for any kind of enhancement in any future crime, and would in fact, help to protect the children from being exposed to dangerous places.”
City Council is expected vote on the matter in the coming weeks.