KCBD Investigates: New law will prohibit enforcement of Lubbock’s juvenile curfew ordinance

Published: Jun. 20, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A juvenile curfew program just implemented in Lubbock will soon end because of a new state law.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1819, which prohibits juvenile curfews effective Sept. 1.

The Texas Home School Coalition called the bill a “game-changer,” because it stops local curfew ordinances that, “disproportionately discriminate against homeschool families.”

A spokesman for the Texas Home School Coalition said the organization supported House Bill 1819 because, “THSC believes that parents should always be presumed to be acting in the best interest of their children unless proven otherwise, and in the case of juvenile curfews, we really see them as local ordinances that usurp parental rights.”

“We see this bill as a massive win for homeschool families and all parents as it continues to uphold the philosophy that parents are the best decision-makers for their children,” a THSC spokesman said.

The Lubbock Police Department said lawmakers did not contact the department before the vote, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

In Sept. 2022, Lubbock City Council voted unanimously to allow the Juvenile Curfew Ordinance to continue after Police Chief Floyd Mitchell presented a plan for dedicated enforcement efforts involving a curfew center and teams of officers looking for violations.

Mitchell said crime data showed the curfew center would best be operated in June, July, and August, but told the council that his officers would further enforce the ordinance all year long and would make every effort to cite the parents as well as juveniles for a violation.

Council voted in favor of the juvenile curfew-directed enforcement program, which launched on May 18, 2023.

According to the ordinance, those 16 years old and younger cannot be in any public place or in any establishment within the city between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

The curfew for Friday and Saturday is from midnight to 6 a.m.

Since launching the program at the end of May, LPD reported it has issued 13 citations to juveniles and eight citations to adults.

Lubbock County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Ginny Simpson is the chief of the juvenile division and says the program is working.

“They are stopping juveniles and we are seeing kids come into the Lubbock County Juvenile Justice Center that were stopped for the curfew, but they had a gun on them or drugs on them,” Simpson said.

The new legislation will make Lubbock’s ordinance unenforceable starting Sept. 1, a month that LPD recorded a spike in juvenile crime last year.

According to LPD, in 2022, officers arrested 71 juveniles for violent crimes; 17 of those arrests were in September.

So far this year, LPD reported it has arrested 34 juveniles for violent crimes.

“Recently, we had two juveniles that one committed and is charged with murder, one is charged with aggravated robbery,” Simpson said.

Lubbock County Juvenile Justice Center Director William Carter is responsible for housing these juveniles.

“Our murder rate has gone up the last couple of years tremendously,” Carter said.

Carter said so far this year, LCJJC has housed 453 juveniles.

To date, the juveniles in Lubbock’s facility are charged with 297 felonies, 189 misdemeanors, and 217 3G offenses which are considered the most serious crimes, like murder, aggravated robbery, and sexual assault.

Carter said last year, 964 juveniles ended up in the LCJJC and the 3G offenses totaled 411.

“Our intakes into our detention center are really based off of more violent crime. We very rarely have a misdemeanor here that is less than an assaultive nature,” Carter said.

We asked THSC specifically about overnight curfews.

“THSC believes that if a child is committing an actual crime, then law enforcement should handle that according to the law, but just being outside of their home should not be a crime,” the spokesman said.

We also spoke with Senator Bryan Hughes (R-D1) who co-sponsored the bill.

Hughes said after listening to testimony, it made sense to eliminate all juvenile curfews because he believes they do more harm than good.

He said there is no evidence juvenile curfews reduce crime.

Hughes said laws like these are always a work-in-progress, and if there is an argument to enforce night-time curfews, he is willing to hear that testimony next session.

Lubbock Mayor Tray Payne said city leaders will need to meet this summer to decide if they will take affirmative action to repeal the juvenile curfew ordinance, but for now, the directed enforcement remains in place.