Nederland curfew ordinance keeps children safe, police chief says

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

NEDERLAND — Police Chief Gary Porter said it’s never his goal to take law enforcement action against a juvenile, but it’s important to have the tool in his handbag.

Nederland’s No. 1 cop shared his perspective while advocating on behalf of a juvenile curfew ordinance, a measure the Nederland City Council approved this week.

A public hearing on the issue passed without comment from local residents and city council members.

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“It is a valuable tool to keep our young people safe and crime down in the community,” Porter said. “A lot of times we’ll just issue a warning or release (a juvenile) to a parent. In some cases we do use an enforcement action when there really isn’t any choice.

“I can tell you the enforcement action is not very common, but it is a good tool that I would recommend we keep so we can keep our young people safe and keep them off the streets whenever they don’t need to be out on the streets.”

Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said the ordinance, which must be renewed every three years, has been in place since 1987, most recently updated 16 years ago with daytime provisions added. City Council members voted unanimously this week to extend the ordinance as written another three years.

Law enforcement action related to the ordinance dropped dramatically in recent years, with the city reporting 31 violations in 2017, 11 violations in 2018 and 10 in 2019.

The ordinance is written, in part, to promote the safety of the city’s youngest citizens, those under 17 years of age, “whose inexperience renders them particularly vulnerable to becoming participants in unlawful activities, particularly unlawful drug activities, and to being victimized by older perpetrators of crime.”

Children 16 and younger are not allowed in public places between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights. They are not allowed in public places between midnight and 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Reasonable provisions for emergencies, travel and other exceptions are included.

The daytime rules state no minor between 6 and 16, other than a child that has been suspended or expelled from school, shall be at any public place within the city except in attendance at school between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during official school days.

Each parent or legal guardian must “prohibit the minor from acting contrary” to the ordinance.