Under the ordinance, juveniles 16 years old and younger are prohibited from being out between 12:01-5 a.m. every day and between 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., with certain exceptions. Those who violate the curfew are subject to a fine up to $500, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance came before City Council because, under state law, municipalities are required to review their curfew ordinances every three years, City Manager Morad Kabiri said.
Resident Carl Conrad spoke in favor of eliminating the curfew. The limited data Conrad could find pertaining to the ordinance made him question its effectiveness, he said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic changing school from in-person to virtual for many students, juveniles are more likely to be out from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on school days, which the curfew prohibits, Conrad said.
According to a 2019 police report, there has been a low number of juvenile arrests the last five years. The number peaked in 2019 with 40 juvenile arrests, Conrad said.
Conrad requested that council review those statistics and look at criminal behavior before and after the ordinance was enacted to see if it has made a significant difference.
“Fundamentally, I’m against curfews,” Conrad said. “They take away your right to move around.”
Additionally, Conrad said, curfews increase the chance juveniles will have unnecessary run-ins with police officers, which has been a hot topic the past several months.
Kabiri said under the curfew ordinance, Friendswood police issued 22 citations in 2017, 19 in 2018, 13 in 2019 and 27 so far in 2020. Those numbers do not include times officers did not issue citations and instead took the juveniles home or called their parents to be picked up, Kabiri said.
Many times, Kabiri said, the curfew ordinance allows officers to engage children "after hours" to make sure nothing illegal is happening. It is the only mechanism by which the city can respond to underage party calls.
“It is a useful tool to make sure that we’re able to keep both our residents and our younger residents safe after hours,” he said.
Most of council agreed. Mayor Mike Foreman called the curfew a “great deterrent” and said that while the 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. curfew does not really apply now, it will when the pandemic ends.
Council Member Steve Rockey said if juveniles have a legitimate reason to be out between 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., they will have no problem.
“[Officers] are not heavy-handed with it at all,” Rockey said of the ordinance. “It’s not abused at all.”
Council Member John Scott said he agreed mostly with Conrad and said that it is the parents’ job, not the government’s, to raise children. If an underage resident is committing a crime, the ordinance is not necessary to address that problem, he said.
“We’re creating an ordinance that will create a situation,” Scott said.
Scott was the sole council member to vote against approving the ordinance.