DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Edna Pemberton told Dallas City Council members she was one of the community members who helped write the city’s teen curfew ordinance nearly 30 years ago and that it’s just as relevant today.
“It was community-driven, not police-written,” said Pemberton.
Pemberton was disappointed to hear this Friday, the ordinance that she and others worked so hard for in 1991 will expire.
“It shouldn’t have happened cause we’re bigger and better than that. We want to save, we don’t want to lose another young person,” she said.
Council Member Tennell Atkins, who stood next to Pemberton as she answered questions after the meeting said, “We’re kind of embarrassed a little bit we let it expire.”
Before the council could vote to reinstate it, there would have to be at least two public hearings.
Some council members expressed their frustrations to Police Chief Renee Hall.
Mayor Pro Tem Casey Thomas asked the Chief why it was allowed to expire, and Councilwoman Jennifer Gates said, “I’m disappointed that we’re at this point. You’re making suggestions on a new ordinance could be implemented but we’re allowing something to expire without the opportunity to have that continuity. That’s concerning.”
The Dallas Police Department briefed council members on the issue six months ago, and Chief Hall said her understanding was they would present potential changes after the ordinance expired. “I take full responsibility for that”, Hall said.
After the meeting, First Assistant Chief David Pughes told reporters, “We should have started earlier and may be mended some of those fixes and come to agreement prior to the place where we are now.”
The teen curfew is in effect between 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekdays because youngsters are supposed to be in school.
At night, the curfew is between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and between midnight and 6:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Records show in 2015, the cited 398 teens for violating the curfew, and a similar amount in 2016.
That number dropped to 283 in 2017, and 125 through mid-June of last year.
In 2017, 451 teens were victims of a crime during the same hours as the night curfew, and 485 teens were arrested for crimes during those hours.
But at least one council member, Omar Narvaez, expressed concern about the demographics of the youngsters cited as part of the enforcement of the curfew.
Records show between January 1, 2017 through mid-June of last year, 408 teens were cited.
Of those, 289 or 71 percent were Hispanic, 75 or 18 percent were African-American, and 41 or 10 percent were white.
Narvaez told council members, “There’s an over-representation of Latino youth and curfew citations. This is significant. This is a big deal.”
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said he’s concerned about not having an ordinance, even if temporarily. “The problem is they can very easily and quickly just walk away from us and so we need a took that allows us to detain them, to talk to them, to find out what their needs are.”
Mata says he wants the ordinance reinstated so that police have a tool they can use to protect teens.
Hilda Duarte, who lives in Narvaez’s council district, opposes the ordinance and says the city should provide programs for youngsters overnight. “They can say if you’re building in West Dallas, we’ll give you $3 million for the beautiful theatre, we’ll give you $1 million for a skating rink. Why don’t they look at that?”
If and when council members vote to reinstate the teen curfew, Police Chief Hall said she would like to decriminalize the ordinance so that youngsters and their families don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines as they do now for violations.
Many on the council agreed.
As of Monday evening, there was no word from the city when the Dallas City Council’s public hearings and a vote on the ordinance would be scheduled.