SLO City Council to consider nighttime curfew for minors

The San Luis Obispo City Council will consider a new law Tuesday that would make it illegal for unaccompanied minors to be in public places late at night.

The nighttime curfew ordinance, proposed by police Chief Deborah Linden, would prohibit almost anyone under the age of 18 to be in public places from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. without an adult. It would not apply to college students.

San Luis Obispo is the only city in the county that does not have such a law already in place.

The curfew was first proposed two years ago along with a handful of other new ordinances meant to curb excessive partying and unruly gatherings throughout town.

“It will give us a tool for earlier intervention to avoid criminal behavior in the first place,” Linden said. “It will also send a consistent message for minors throughout the county and neighboring cities.”

Exceptions include minors who are: on an errand for a “responsible” adult; going to or returning from a job; on the sidewalk abutting their home; attending a school, religious or recreational activity; emancipated by law; or going to or returning from a private place without stopping.

“If it looks like a person is under 18 and appears to be out without a purpose, they will be questioned,” said Linden, adding that a police officer will verify their age and their reason for being out.

“Right now, there is no legal ability to send these kids home or call their parents unless they are committing a crime,” Linden said.

The number of youth contacted by a police officer for suspected criminal activity or as the victim of a crime between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. has dropped significantly in the past five years, from 112 youth in 2006 to 69 youth in 2010.

However, the number of youth arrested between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. has remained consistently in the double digits. In 2010, police arrested 20 youth for criminal activity.

The arrests are often made for alcohol violations. For example, in late March and early April, two 14-year-olds were discovered in public places so intoxicated that they needed medical treatment, Linden said.

“Alcohol, and kids’ perception that it is easy to get, is a really big concern,” she said.

First offenders would be fined $100 and/or given 10 hours of community service. The fine would max out at $250 and/or 25 hours of community service for youth who are cited three or more times.

Parents or guardians of those youth may also be cited if they knowingly allow their minor to violate the curfew. Parents would be fined $100 and/or given 10 hours of community service and $250 and/or 25 hours of community service for a second offense. The fine would max out at $500 and/or 50 hours of community service for a minor who is cited three more times.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.