ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez’s announcement Monday that she plans to seek state legislation that would allow cities and counties to enact curfews prompted an Albuquerque councilor to withdraw a resolution calling for a change in state law.
The resolution’s withdrawal didn’t deter dozens of speakers from expressing opinions for or against youth curfews.
Albuquerque City Councilor Ken Sanchez, a Democrat from the West Side, proposed the resolution last month that would have asked the Legislature to give Albuquerque and other municipalities and counties the authority to enact curfew ordinances.
Hope Alvarado, a University of New Mexico sophomore, told councilors that she had been homeless as a teenager and had no home to return to at night.
“I am looking at my friends who are homeless and wondering how they are going to get by with this curfew,” Alvarado said. She also said she has friends who have been victims of violence.
“This is not the kind of response we should have” to recent acts of violence involving children, she said.
Sanchez’s resolution contends that a curfew would help reduce juvenile crime. With a curfew in effect, “Teens tend to stay out of trouble because criminal activity or high-risk behavior is more likely to occur later in the evening when parental supervision is not present,” the resolution says.
Martinez said Monday that she supports letting communities decide whether to impose curfews and plans to include a curfew measure to her call for the 30-day session that begins in January. Martinez said she made the decision after speaking with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Sanchez.
Martinez said curfews would provide communities with a tool to help them combat juvenile crime.
Sanchez said the governor’s announcement fulfilled the purpose of the resolution he withdrew.
“I don’t want to criminalize in any way children being out after midnight,” Sanchez said after withdrawing the resolution. “I’m trying to keep our kids safe.”
Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, told councilors that curfews are ineffective at reducing juvenile crime, and that they increase the potential for conflict between police officers and children. Curfews also criminalize young people for behavior that is legal for adults, he said.
“It is essentially illegal arrest,” Simonson said. “The kid is taken into custody without actually committing a crime.”
The city enacted a curfew in 1994, at the urging of then-Mayor Marty Chávez, that barred anyone under 17 from being on the streets from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays.
The American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued the city in 1995 to block enforcement of the curfew. In 1999, the New Mexico Supreme Court struck down the ordinance, saying it violated the due process rights of children and conflicted with state law.
Diane Goodman, one of the parents who spoke in favor of a curfew, told councilors that a curfew would help single parents who need help persuading their children to stay home at late hours.
“I know that as a single parent that a curfew would have helped me,” Goodman said. “I would have been able to negotiate with her” by demanding that her daughter return home at a certain time.
Sanchez proposed the curfew days after a shooting at Pat Hurley Park killed a 14-year-old boy and injured two other teens. They were part of a group hanging out in the park about 2 a.m.
And six teenagers, ages 14 to 17, were arrested and indicted for murder in July in the June 26 shooting death of Steven Gerecke, 60, outside his Northeast Heights home. Police say the killing took place during a criminal rampage by the teenagers.”
A Journal poll this month found that 87 percent of Albuquerque adults favor a midnight curfew for children under 16.
The Albuquerque Public Schools board expressed opposition to the proposed curfew this month after about 90 students and former students packed a board meeting to protest the idea.