Council discusses amending curfew for teenagers

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Changes to Selma’s curfew for teenagers might be on the way after it was discussed Tuesday during a Public Safety Committee meeting.

The committee members, Mayor Darrio Melton and interim Selma Police Chief Johnny King talked about changing the time of the curfew, which is currently midnight.

“We do have a curfew in place, it is just that we haven’t had the opportunity to make it effective at the moment,” said councilman Michael Johnson. “I think we’ve got to tweak some little things in that, and I think one of the things we’re trying to tweak is the hours.”

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The city adopted its current curfew in 2009.

“It shall be unlawful for any minor to be upon the streets, sidewalks, parks, playgrounds, public places and vacant lots, or to ride in or upon, drive or otherwise operate or be a passenger of any automobile, bicycle or other vehicle in, upon, over or through the streets or other public places,” the ordinance states.

The ordinance is for the hours between midnight and 5 a.m. Monday through Friday. The penalty for first-time offenders is the child will be taken into custody, and the parents will be contacted. The parent and child will be issued a warning citation. The penalty for a second offense is a written citation to the parent and child and a $25 fine. A third offense warrants an appearance in juvenile court, a fine of up to $250 and imprisonment up to 90 days.

Emma Alexander, principal of Selma High School, spoke to the committee, asking for a change in the curfew to help protect students.

“We’re doing our part, and what we’re asking … is for the city to assist. Things are better. Discipline is down 60 percent,” Alexander said. “I just personally feel that it will save lives, and I realize it is something that we may not have the man power to do, but it will help tremendously.”

Three people 18 years old and younger were murdered in Selma during 2016. One of them, Cedric Williams, was confirmed as a senior at Selma High School last spring. At least two of the homicides happened after curfew.

Interim Selma Police Chief Johnny King said the ordinance needs to be strengthened and more man power is needed to enforce it.

“The ordinance has been in effect for a few years, but we just haven’t had the man power to enforce it because there weren’t a whole lot of teeth in it,” King said during Tuesday’s meeting.

King mentioned stricter consequences for minors being out after hours.

Johnson mentioned the idea of moving the curfew up to 10 p.m. with extended time on the weekend or during events that extend past curfew.

“We’ve got to hold the parents accountable also,” Johnson said. “It’s really getting bad out there, and we need to do something about it.”

Johnson asked Mayor Melton to have the legal department look into changing the ordinance so the council can go ahead and take action as soon as possible.