The Rockport City Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday, March 10, held a public hearing regarding the re-establishment of a curfew order for children under age 17, and then later in the same meeting approved on first reading an ordinance reenacting the minor curfew order. There will be some minor changes in the ordinance when it’s considered for adoption on second reading at the council’s March 24 meeting. A second public hearing about the curfew will be conducted at the same meeting, before the council considers adopting the ordinance.
At the March 10 public hearing, Rockport Police Chief Greg Stevens noted the curfew was in affect in the past, but had to be reviewed every three years.
“It was due for review last year, it wasn’t, so it expired,” said the chief. “My opinion is it should be renewed.
“People look at a juvenile curfew as punitive, but it’s actually to protect them. It’s for after hours, or when they should be in school.”
He noted the curfew primarily applies to children ages 10 to 16.
Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Diana McGinnis said the only issue she sees with the ordinance is the timeframe set during the day because Aransas County Independent School District (ACISD) campuses start and end at different times.
When asked what are her recommendations, McGinnis said, “Taylor the ordinance to school hours at different campuses.”
City Manager Kevin Carruth asked Stevens how McGinnis’ suggestion can best be accomplished operationally.
Stevens said he will need to look at the ordinance a little closer, and added, “We don’t want to write a ticket and drag a kid and his/her parents into the court system for a ticket that shouldn’t have been written.”
He noted addressing the exemptions listed in the ordinance is one way to address some of the issues raised, and added, “Having a measure of common sense comes into play.”
Mayor Pro-tem J.D. Villa asked about children who are home schooled, and Stevens said it applies to all children within the stated age group.
“This (ordinance) is really for those 16 and under,” said the chief. “Seventeen is a gray area, and 18 years old is different (subject to truancy laws).”
Councilman Mike Saski asked if the school district can issue something similar to a hall pass when a student is off campus for a good reason.
“That’s a conversation we can have with them, but our officers are going to make good judgment calls,” said Stevens. “Let me tell you, we will handle it.”
Carruth said the curfew ordinance had been in existence for many years. He asked Judge McGinnis if there had been problems with the ordinance in the past.
She said yes, due to the conflict in times listed in the ordinance.
Stevens said, “Let us work with the schools and bring it back to you for second reading.”
Carruth said the city attorney advised the city to write the ordinance saying, “When school is in session.”
Stevens noted the Rockport Police Department occasionally handles curfew (truancy) during the day, but primarily RPD officers are enforcing the nighttime part of the curfew.
Stevens, McGinnis, and ACISD officials will meet prior to the March 24 council meeting to make minor changes in the ordinance to address concerns aired during Tuesday’s hearing.