San Benito votes to impose curfew

MGN Online

SAN BENITO — After about two years, the curfew is back.

Last night, city commissioners voted to impose the curfew to help take juveniles off the street late at night.

The law, first set in 1996, last expired in 2017.

Every three years, the law requires officials to reconsider imposing the curfew.

The curfew bars juveniles from the street or public areas from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays and 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekends.

The law also requires parents to supervise their children during that time.

Teenage violators face juvenile court prosecution and fines of up to $500.

Meanwhile, parents face as much as $500 in fines.

Last month, Commissioner Tony Gonzales requested officials reconsider imposing the curfew, warning gangs and graffiti remain a problem in town.

However, officials appeared to downplay a need for to impose the curfew.

“ The curfew ordinance is rarely used because officers have other tools to conduct inquires and investigations,” Capt. Mario Perea told commissioners.

City Manager Manuel De La Rosa said the curfew was last imposed to crack down on graffiti.

“ We had a lot of graffiti — vandalism-type activity. We haven’t had that in two years,” De La Rosa told commissioners. “It’s recourse for officers but we’re not having those problems. We don’t generally use it. The kids we generally come across are with adults or family members.”

Curfews raising questions

Across the Rio Grande Valley and around the country, many cities struggle with the same concerns surrounding curfews.

In March, Harlingen city commissioners unanimously voted to put the city’s curfew law back into effect after Police Chief Michael Kester’s statistics showed the ordinance helped cut down on juvenile arrests from 2015 to 2018.

Like Kester, many law enforcement officials argue the laws work to keep teenagers off the street and out of trouble.

But others question whether the laws constitute “selective enforcement.”

In Austin, city commissioners struck down their curfew law in 2017.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com