Winters City Council votes for new curfew

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

At the Winters City Council meeting on October 26th, the council voted to adopt a change to the nightly juvenile curfew. Currently, the curfew begins at midnight but will eventually begin at 11 p.m.

The Winters City Council voted in favor of changing the start of juvenile curfew to 11 p.m. The curfew currently begins at midnight for anyone under the age of 17.

Alderman Mark Burkhart brought the subject up and asked for it to be voted on. Burkhart addressed those gathered at the council meeting, "I put the agenda item in there to change the existing curfew from midnight, 12 a.m., to 11 p.m. I believe this will better enable the police force to patrol the streets with less juveniles on the street. I went around to the businesses this week and most of them close at ten o'clock. There are a couple that stay open until midnight, like 7-11. The Crossing does stay open until midnight during football season, on Friday nights, because of entertaining some of the football team and the cheerleaders and so forth. So, therefore I'm asking to change that (curfew) to 11 p.m. I know that our police force has a tough job and they're out there trying to do what they can and they have protocols that they have to go through which makes it sometimes, almost like they're handicapped or got their hands in handcuffs. We appreciate the job y'all (police dept) are doing out there trying to make our streets safer."

Mayor Lisa Yates said that she had discussed the issue with Burkhart earlier, "There are some benefits to doing this. The things I want to point out are, that there are defenses to it that we don't have anything we can do about. If the minor is accompanied by their parent, they can be where the they want to be. If the parent gives the minor permission to be with another adult, we have to honor that as well. The minor can be working, they can be going to a religious activity or school activity. They can be on an emergency errand. They can be on the sidewalk in front of their own house. If the minor is directed by the parent to go on the errand."

Yates also addressed the subject of the people who obey the curfew, "If people are going to obey the midnight curfew and the 11 p.m curfew, these are not necessarily the people that we're trying to catch anyway. Obviously this curfew won't apply to anybody over the age of 17."

Burkhart made a motion to change the curfew, which was seconded. The vote passed with three council members in favor of it. The motion carried but won't go into effect yet. City attorney Ken Slimp spoke to Yates and made the legal recommendation that the new curfew get published in the newspaper and on the website before it goes into effect. Yates said that this does involve crime, and the possibility of punitive action attached to the enforcement of the curfew.

Winters Police Chief Paula Geyer said that the police department, per the city ordinance, does not cite violators of the curfew the first time that they are stopped. The police department issues warning citations for first time offenders.

Neighborhood Watch member, Hector Reyna, spoke up in favor of the curfew and thanked the police for the work that they're doing to try and help stop the string of thefts and burglaries that have plagued the city since March.