Fort Worth’s teen curfew will end. Council members have proposed this alternative plan

Bob Booth/Bob Booth

Fort Worth will let its curfew ordinance for minors expire in February as the Texas Legislature is set to debate curfews in a statewide context, Mayor Mattie Parker said in a statement released Friday.

The statement came days after an emotional Fort Worth City Council work session on the issue and hours after two city council members proposed an alternative to renewing the city’s juvenile curfew ordinance, citing concerns about the curfew’s disproportionate effects on Black and Latino youth.

In her statement, Parker said the city was informed that a bill was filed in the state legislature that would repeal the authority of cities to adopt or enforce juvenile curfews.

This bill, SB 603, has the support of both key Republicans and Democrats, she said.

Parker said the city council will allow Fort Worth’s existing curfew ordinance to expire on Feb. 13, as any potential action could be “premature and possibly temporary.”

The Texas Legislature’s regular session began Jan. 10.

District 6 council member Jared Williams said in a statement he released earlier Friday that residents and parents raised concerns about the continuation of the ordinance during a listening session on Jan. 23 and wanted to see the City Council “take deliberate action to help protect our children and keep them safe.”

Williams proposed the Child Assistance Response and Engagement for Minors resolution, which involves creating a set of trained interdisciplinary teams with service areas across Fort Worth that would provide support and resources for minors.

The resolution would also set a non-enforceable recommended curfew for late-night hours and would divert minors with minor offenses away from punitive action.

“I think we all agree on wanting to keep our children safe, when they knowingly or unknowingly break curfew,” Williams said in the statement. “... After our listening circle, it became very clear that we needed a new tool in our city that would allow for a holistic 24-hour approach to addressing safety issues with our children.”

District 8 council member Chris Nettles is a co-sponsor of the resolution.

The statement from Williams followed a Fort Worth City Council work session Tuesday during which Williams and Nettles pointed to city data showing the ordinance has disproportionately affected Black teenagers.

The ordinance, first instituted in 1994, prohibits minors from being in public places between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends.

Black teenagers accounted for roughly 40% of citations in 2020 compared to 30% for Hispanic teenagers and 22% for white teenagers, according to a city report. In 2021, Black teenagers accounted for roughly 42% of citations compared to 37% for Hispanic teenagers and 26% for white teenagers.

The percentage for both white and Hispanic teenagers cited increased to around 38% in 2022, while the percentage of Black teenagers cited decreased to 14%.

According to 2021 U.S. Census data, 19% of Fort Worth’s population is Black, 35% of the population is Hispanic and 38% is white.

In Williams’ statement, Nettles is quoted as saying the resolution is the best possible scenario for protecting and empowering Fort Worth youth.

“The curfew ordinance proposed by the police department — and the amendments proposed by my colleagues — were harmful and biased against our young boys, as well as our Black and Brown youth across this City,” Nettles said.

Williams and Parker could not be immediately reached for further comment.

During the work session, District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck suggested changes to the ordinance to address concerns about violations ending up on teenagers’ records.

Gyna Bivens, District 5 council member and mayor pro tem, suggested adding a meeting in the Stop Six area to give more parents an opportunity to get involved.

A public meeting scheduled for Feb. 1 has been postponed in light of the developments at the state level.

Parker said the city will engage with Fort Worth residents as the path forward becomes more clear.

“Listening to the voices of our residents is important, as is hearing and learning about other factors when considering such a policy decision,” she said. “We can all agree the number one priority is keeping Fort Worth’s youth safe.”

The complete Community Assisted Response and Engagement (C.A.R.E.) for Minors would:

  • Assemble trained interdisciplinary teams of adults that consist of at least a social worker, a firefighter/EMT, a police officer, and two community members.

  • Provide dedicated teams assigned to respective service areas across Fort Worth that are responsible for providing support and resources to address the needs of affected minors and their families.

  • Develop an evidence-based protocol for services including: safety assessments, child needs assessment, parent/guardian communication and partnership, resource connections, and navigating kids to safe spaces.

  • Develop and require annual training for team members and provide a one-time financial incentive bonus upon completion of initial training. Training should cover topics including, but not limited to: implicit bias, adverse childhood experiences and trauma, de-escalation, community resource navigation, and response plans.

  • Provide a 24/7 non-emergency hotline, so that the parents/guardians of minors at risk, other peers, or community members can call to request C.A.R.E. for Minors services for minors suspected of being involved with minor offenses.

  • Establish guidance on setting a non-enforceable recommended curfew for late-night hours that is advisory-only in nature and ensure teams are on duty during these hours.

  • Establish an educational program to train all City of Fort Worth employees, parents, minors, and businesses about the program and how to get assistance for minors they’re concerned are involved with minor offenses.

  • Divert minors involved with minor offenses from legal sanctions, court appearances, confinement, or other punitive action through the justice system.

This report contains information from the Star-Telegram’s archives.