Tacoma City Council set to extend curfew ordinance

Tacoma City Council is expected to renew a curfew ordinance that local police say has reduced the crime rate among youth, according to a presentation to councilmembers Oct. 23 at City Hall.

The 12-year-old ordinance, which has been renewed five times and expires at the end of the year, prohibits minors from public places between midnight and 6:00 a.m. unless they are en route from designated structured activities such as work or supervised events that serve area youth. Minors and their parents can be found in violation of the ordinance, and currently face a $125 fine when the law is broken.

According to statistics presented by Tacoma Police Department captain Mike Miller, youth crime since the ordinance was introduced has dropped to one percent overall, despite the fact that the number of youth has grown to eight percent of the total population in Tacoma. Also, between January 2003 and June 2007, a majority of violent crime arrests for youth occurred during non-curfew hours. Most juvenile crime arrests occur on weekday afternoons, and the number of juvenile crime victims during both curfew and non-curfew hours has steadily decreased since 2003.

Capt. Miller said the statistics are “an endorsement of the effectiveness of the ordinance.”

The curfew ordinance also provides funding for several programs that assist local youth. Metro Parks, YMCA and Boys and Girls Club of South Puget Sound provide structured recreation and activities during late-night hours; and Metropolitan Development Council offers and intervention program that provides educational services to minors who receive curfew citations.

On Tuesday, most councilmembers showed early support for the ordinance.

Councilmember Connie Ladenburg said she was encouraged by the statistics. “This is another tool parents can use,” said Ladenburg.

The city’s municipal code requires regular evaluation of the ordinance to gauge its effectiveness and ongoing need. A curfew advisory committee comprised of City staff, Pierce County Juvenile Court staff, and curfew support programs, have been meeting since May to review data and make recommendations to City Council. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance in December.