Mid-County, Port Arthur police talk juvenile curfew enforcement
Published 4:50 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020
Local police departments are not anticipating any real problems with the juvenile curfew handed down this week by Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick.
The purpose of the curfew, which is included in the second amended emergency order, calls for a 24-hour curfew for all individuals in Jefferson County who are under the age of 18, are not in school, are not accompanied by school personnel, a parent or guardian or are not going directly to their place of employment or going directly home from that place of employment.
The order does not apply to special needs students during the times local school districts are required by federal law to provide those student services.
Port Arthur Deputy Chief John Owens said the PAPD will be vigilant as they urge juveniles that meet the criteria to stay inside unless accompanied by an adult or gong to a function.
“We are doing our best to adhere and enforce that through Judge Branick’s order and Sheriff [Zena] Stephens,” Owens said. “We’re doing our best to ensure juveniles in the city don’t congregate and don’t stay out unaccompanied. We’re not looking to cite anyone. We just want them to use common sense and we urge parents of these juveniles to please adhere to the curfew.”
The city of Port Arthur has a nighttime curfew in place — 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Port Arthur Police Chief Tim Duriso said the department will comply with all of the county’s directions. If officers see a juvenile out, they will do their best to make sure they are compliant, he added.
In Nederland, Police Chief Gary Porter said the city already has a nighttime curfew where juveniles are not allowed out from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday to Thursday and from midnight to 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday. This does not apply to juveniles accompanied by a parent or guardian or going to and from work.
“We will continue to use this [curfew in place by the county] as a primary tool to keep people off the streets, but as far as going out, stopping kids from riding bikes, that’s not something we will do,” Porter said. “We will use officer discretion in enforcing this. I don’t see us having a big need for this.”
Porter did not know of Branick’s second amended emergency order or the curfew until he was alerted by the city manager. The county, he said, is not communicating well with local partners.
Port Neches city also has a juvenile curfew in place that covers daytime 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday when school is in session, mirroring the school hours. During that time if they see juveniles out on the streets they will be contacted by law enforcement and under the city ordinance, they can be issued a citation, detained, have a parent pick them up or have juvenile authorities notified, just as they would with the nighttime curfew is in effect.
The regular Port Neches nighttime curfew is 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. seven days a week, so the new emergency ordinance wouldn’t be that much different than what is already in place.
Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine said there is a lot of discretion on officers in how they enforce the issue. He understands the reasoning for the county curfew — to stop or slow down the spread of the coronavirus — but enforcing the curfew puts a burden on law enforcement.
Lemoine was made aware of the curfew after a call from the city manager followed by a call from someone who saw the information posted on Facebook.
Law enforcement in Groves is spreading the word about the County’s new juvenile curfew and has posted it to their Facebook page. Groves Police Chief Deputy Kirk Rice said they hope parents will see the emergency order, take heed and do their part in keeping juveniles from congregating.
The city already has a juvenile daytime curfew during school times from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday to Thursday and midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.