CITY COUNCIL FAILS TO EXPAND
8 P.M. CURFEW CITYWIDE
In a brief New Orleans City Council meeting Feb. 2, council members for the second time deferred a vote on a proposed citywide extension of the curfew ordinance. In early January, the council passed a similar extension for the French Quarter and a portion of the Faubourg Marigny. The proposed extension would make it illegal anywhere in the city for children under 17 to be out between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. without adult supervision.
Last week's deferral pushes consideration of the curfew extension back to the council's next meeting on Feb. 16.
Kara Johnson, chief of staff for District E Councilman Jon Johnson, says the proposal has drawn concerns from residents and municipal officials. The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO), for example, has expressed worries that the extension would overwhelm its Juvenile Curfew Center. OPSO spokesman Marc Ehrhardt declined to comment, directing all curfew-related questions back to the council.
Foundation for Louisiana President Flozell Daniels Jr. tells Gambit he understands the logic behind a curfew in the alcohol-heavy French Quarter, but does not believe curfews typically do much to reduce crime or keep teenagers safer — because, he says, most crime by or against teenagers occurs between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., not late at night. Daniels says he hopes to sit down with councilmembers and other city officials to look at the research on curfews and perhaps think of other solutions to youth-oriented crime.
"We just think this is a good opportunity to press the pause button on this curfew," he says.
But should additional research and public comment conclude that a citywide extension would not reduce crime, and should Councilman Johnson decide to drop the ordinance, the new French Quarter-only curfew would still be in effect. The proposed citywide extension came after criticism that the original proposal, sponsored by District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, failed to consider the city's outer neighborhoods and merely sought to keep black teenagers out of the city's tourist-heavy core.
Asked if a decision to kill the citywide curfew proposal ought to prompt the council to rescind the French Quarter extension, Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, says both extensions were rushed through without adequate research. Early curfews, when applied even on weekends, "criminalize teenage dating," she says, adding that curfews in general often are applied disproportionately to nonwhite teenagers.
"It should never have been passed in the French Quarter in the first place," Esman says. "Whether it's being applied disparately to minorities and whether it should exist at all are two separate issues." — Charles Maldonado