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Public hearing planned Tuesday for Port Arthur youth curfew

A curfew ordinance in Port Arthur is set for a second hearing during Tuesday’s regular city council meeting, which begins at 8:30 a.m.

The current ordinance, which was passed in 2017, bans anyone under the age of 17 from commuting, walking or running, or standing in a public place in Port Arthur between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight and 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Minors may not be seen about in public within 200 feet of a nightclub, bar or other entertainment business where alcohol is sold between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and it is unlawful for the parent or guardian to allow the minor to violate the curfew.

The ordinance also requires children ages 6 to 16 — other than those who have been suspended or expelled — to attend school between 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each official school day, unless either school has been dismissed earlier, the minor has a written excuse from school officials or is accompanied by a parent or guardian.

No child that is suspended or expelled may be seen about in public during school hours without adult supervision.

The ordinance must undergo hearings every two years before being updated, but Police Deputy Chief Michael Fratus believes the current ordinance is effective.

“This allows us a tool more so than not for how we work at those times to make sure our youths are attending classes when they are scheduled to do so, and it also gives us a tool to see where our youths are and to contact parents if the youths are not where they need to be at night,” Fratus said during the first hearing held Monday at City Hall.

Violators of the curfew face misdemeanor charges and a fine of $500 for each offense.

The ordinance does provide for exceptions, or defenses to prosecution, for minors including being on an emergency errand; attending a school, religious or government sponsored activity; lawful employment and being on the sidewalk of his or her residence.

The Rev. Donald Ray Frank, who is running for Position 8 on the Port Arthur City Council, said a majority of high school students in the Port Arthur Independent School District work jobs.

“They are self-sufficient,” said Frank, who presently serves on the PAISD board. “They are 16, 17 years old. They are directly responsible for themselves. No one is supporting them. No one is buying their prom material.”

No objections to the ordinance were raised during the first hearing on Jan. 27.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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