Praise given for curfew law changes

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The San Benito County Gang Prevention Policy Committee members spent some time at their meeting last Wednesday to thank the three jurisdictions that approved daytime and nighttime curfews that will allow across the board enforcement in Hollister, San Juan Bautista and San Benito County.
“It sends a unified message that all the jurisdictions are on the same page and working together,” said Al De Vos, the gang prevention coordinator for the county.
He said having universal enforcement means the laws are the same throughout the entire county, meaning both sheriff’s officers and police officers will be able to deal with the issue of truant kids or those loitering after dark.
Known as the Youth Protection Ordinance, each government entity worked closely with the policy committee to put together guidelines for the laws. County supervisors, San Juan and Hollister city council members, and the staff members that support them spent about a year putting together and approving the ordinances.
“Regular school attendance provides important benefits not only to the students themselves but also to the health, safety and welfare of all residents…” part of the resolution reads.
De Vos said the process was very collaborative with the agencies working together throughout.
“We all recognize this is something we can do as agencies and organizations to make the community safer,” De Vos said, “both during daytime and nighttime just to ensure the safety of the youth.”
City and county curfews that have required youths to be home before 10 p.m. during the school year were extended to daytime hours starting Aug. 1.
The Hollister City Council in June approved an update to the curfew ordinance by adding provisions for daytime enforcement. The amendment added a daytime curfew for minors during regularly scheduled school hours, with monetary penalties for their parents possible for repeated violations. The new regulations apply to San Juan Bautista and county jurisdictions as well.
“It’s designed to avoid having kids out during the hours of compulsory school when they might loiter and cause problems for businesses or residences,” said Interim Police Chief David Westrick, in June. “Sometimes we need to protect people from themselves and have them in school during those times when they could get in trouble.”
All first-time violators will receive a ticket, and those violations will be tracked by the county probation department. The revised ordinance includes provisions for fines of up to $100 for the first infraction, $200 for a second violation and $300 for a third and subsequent violations during a 12-month period. Parents of the youths deemed to have violated the youth protection ordinance will be responsible for payment of those fines.
The nighttime curfew will remain in effect between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights and will extend to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Exceptions to the nighttime curfew include when a minor is heading home from a public meeting, a place of public entertainment – like a movie or sporting event – without a stop, and when a minor is “exercising his/her First Amendment rights protected by the United States or California constitutions.”
Exceptions will also be made for home-schooled children, those participating in school, religious or other cultural activities and those responding to or acting pursuant to an emergency.

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