Oakland Rejects Youth Curfew

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Oakland recently rejected a proposal to implement a youth curfew for the third  time. Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo’s proposal suggested that kids not be allowed on the streets between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. everyday and 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on school days.

We spoke with Yoxeli Ramirez, 20, at a community hearing in Oakland, who said she believes a curfew will give police the chance to stop teenagers more often. “This is just another way to criminalize kids and stop to search them to find things to get them locked up… We’re all not criminals. Some families need their kids working at night to help support,” she said.

Ms. Means, who only wanted to give her last name, raised her children in Oakland, and she said that a curfew is a good solution. “I am a parent of two grown boys, one of which was working late night and someone came and put a gun in his mouth. I wouldn’t want my kids to be out after dark… If kids must work then they should have a slip that shows they’re working… I feel this curfew is not targeting youth, it’s to protect youth,” she said.

My fellow reporter Darelle Brown interviewed Sean Whent, the Interim Police Chief of Oakland, who said he is not entirely supportive of a youth curfew here. “Officers would need a place to take the kids and there’s no support with that. Then it becomes very labor intensive for my officers and I don’t have a lot of extra officers, so we need to be very smart about the time they have. I don’t feel like this is the best way to address the issue,” said Whent.

Oakland’s neighboring city, San Leandro, has a  youth curfew in place with similar restrictions as Gallo’s proposal.  I interviewed Randy Brandt, Police Lieutenant with the San Leandro Police department, who said his goal is not to get anyone in trouble. “It’s just if kids are out and about during school hours or after hours meaning past 10 p.m.. It gives us the ability to stop and see what they’re doing and see if there with an adult or if they should be in school,” he said.

I asked Brandt what happens to students in San Leandro who are caught on the street during the daytime curfew. He says he doesn’t want to fine anyone for violating the rule. He’s actually looking for ways to avoid that.  “We don’t want to get them in trouble we just want to make sure they are in school getting their education,”  Brandt said.

I wondered if this curfew could have unintended consequences. What happens when a kid is out during the curfew and needs help? Would kids be afraid to turn to police because they don’t want to get a ticket for being out during curfew?

“People should never be afraid to ask the police for help,” said Whent. “If someone needs help they should just call the police. It might be a violation of some sort of law — we can talk about those types of things, but the ultimate goal is — they have to have faith that when they call us were going to be there to help them,” said Brandt.

Additional reporting by Darelle Brown.

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