A southeast Arkansas city has amended its curfew law in a way that puts young people under some form of curfew approximately 16 hours a day when school is in session.
The Eudora City Council adopted an amendment to a previously existing juvenile curfew at their regular meeting on Monday, March 6.
Eudora Police Chief Mike Pitts provided comments the following day about what led the city to consider amending the juvenile curfew.
Pitts explained that his department had received several complaints from concerned citizens regarding groups of juveniles gathering on street corners and engaging in illegal activities, such as smoking marijuana.
With the passage of the amendment to the existing curfew, Pitts explained that the officers in his department now have more options available to them regarding actions they can take to address those concerns.
Pitts said that after he had received the complaints, he began researching what other cities and police departments in the state are doing when it comes to those issues, including what options are available to those entities regarding how Arkansas laws could be enforced to address the concerns expressed by Eudora’s residents.
Pitts discovered that the Eudora City Council would have to vote to amend their existing juvenile curfew ordinance, as there are currently no state laws covering that issue.
The original curfew for juveniles in Eudora was amended by the city council, and as of March 7, is in effect from the hours of 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
There is also now a daytime curfew that was added in the City of Eudora that applies during regular school hours on days when school is in session. For example, during Spring Break, officers will be aware that school is not in session and that the daytime curfew does not apply during those days.
Pitts explained that at times he and other officers from the department have observed unsupervised juveniles on the street during school hours.
Pitts said some of those juveniles that were approached by officers told them that they were out of school due to disciplinary actions such as suspension.
Pitts said he and his department are collaborating with Lakeside High School to implement a consistent and continuous communication system for the school district to identify to the department which students are currently prohibited from campus due to disciplinary actions.
Having this information will help the department identify which juveniles should be off campus during school hours, and help to ensure that those juveniles are properly supervised if they are in public, he said.
Pitts explained that the added daytime curfew is as much about protecting the juveniles in their city as it is about addressing the safety concerns of its adult population.
“I’ve been seeing a trend lately of adults hanging out with children,” Pitts said, adding that it was concerning.
He cited an incident where a man who was approximately 50 years old was walking around on several occasions with a group of juveniles, and that upon speaking with the man, the officers discovered that he had no guardianship rights or parental ties to any of the children he was accompanying.
Prior to the adoption of the amendment, Pitts and his officers were legally allowed to stop a juvenile who was on the street during school hours and ask them to identify themselves, but they could take no further action past that point unless the juvenile was breaking the law.
“Now, we can make contact with them, and we have reasonable cause to stop them and find out what they are doing,” Pitts said.
“The juvenile’s parent or guardian has to be notified immediately” that they have been stopped by the department, said Pitts.
For the first offense of curfew violation, an officer will issue a verbal or written warning to the juvenile’s guardians. If the juvenile violates curfew an additional time, a citation can be presented to their parent or guardian in amounts ranging from $100 to $500 dollars per violation; the ultimate decision would be made in court by the presiding judge in each case.
Pitts said he wanted to emphasize that his officers “are not going to be unreasonable” regarding the new hours of the curfew, and he wanted to point out that there is a provision in the ordinance that allows those juveniles that are returning from work, school or church functions during the time frame the curfews are in effect an hour in which they can travel back to their homes without incurring a violation.
Pitts said that council only had one member vote no on the amendment. He also said that after the council meeting had concluded, he had asked the council member that cast the dissenting vote why they voted against it.
Pitts said the council member replied that they agreed with the idea of the curfew, but voted no because “nobody had been notified.”
Pitts said that the verbal and written warning policy for first time curfew violators addresses that concern by providing those parents who might not be aware of the new curfew hours, or aware their children are violating the curfew, with a warning instead of a citation.
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