Posted on March 23, 2010
Richmond Considers School-time
Curfew for Minors
City Council to weigh police proposal for
daytime curfew, citations for violators
Fischer Contra Costa Times
Any students caught wandering Richmond streets
during class could soon face a Juvenile Court judge to explain
their truancy if the City Council approves a school-day curfew
proposed by the Police Department.
The plan, intended to curb the city's truancy problem and
street violence that disproportionately affects the young,
heads to the council Tuesday. If approved, minors found out
of school during school hours would get a ticket.
"There are so many young people just hanging out in the streets
of this city on a daily basis. I think people are really frustrated,
and there's also a fair amount of concern for their welfare," police
Chief Chris Magnus said. "Unfortunately, we're a long way from
'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'"
The proposed ordinance is one piece of a larger plan to better
coordinate anti-violence efforts in Richmond. The council also
will hear from Magnus and DeVone Boggan, director of the Office
of Neighborhood Safety, about forming regional committees of
elected officials to meet with county judges and the Contra
Costa District Attorney's Office about the prosecution and
sentencing for gun crimes.
The Police Department also proposes a two-year, $290,000 contract
with the district attorney to dedicate a prosecutor full time
to Richmond gun cases. The prosecutor would work at the Richmond
"Violence prevention is a multilayered effort, and I encourage
all efforts in reducing crime and violence," Richmond Mayor
Gayle McLaughlin said. "We must continue to deepen our collective
effort, as a unified community, in conjunction with dedicated
city departments, to bring about a peaceful and safe Richmond." [emphasis
The truancy plan may reach furthest into the daily lives of
average Richmond residents. Scores of children cut class daily,
most from the city's four high schools and two middle schools,
according to police. Juvenile Court can levy fines as high
as $500, though the Police Department has yet to work out a
penalty schedule with the courts.
Nearby Hercules and Pinole both enacted daytime curfews in
recent years. In Hercules, an officer may write a $50 ticket
for the first offense, a $100 ticket for a second offense and
a $200 ticket for each subsequent offense.
Making truancy part of the municipal code, rather than relying
solely on state educational code that requires students to
attend school, adds teeth to the law, Hercules police Chief
Fred Deltorchio said. Requiring families to interact with court
and pay fines goes a long way toward emphasizing the need to
take care of the problem at home.
"We had a rash of three or four residential burglaries involving
students" in the months preceding the Hercules ordinance in
summer 2008, Deltorchio said.
Law enforcement strongly correlates truancy with juvenile
crime. In his report to the City Council, Magnus references
pronounced drop in crime around Sacramento schools after that
city enacted an active anti-truancy program, and a similar
boost in attendance at San Francisco schools after a similar
Data show that Richmond's highest rates of juvenile crime
and juvenile victimization occur during school hours.
"We're seeing a lot of fairly serious crime, a lot of kids
getting pulled into the juvenile justice system," Magnus
Richmond police now take truants back to school or wait with
them for their parents. The process can be time consuming.
The department periodically hosts focused truancy sweeps, with
the Richmond Police Activities League serving as a drop-off
center where students can wait for their parents or until the
end of the school day.
The most recent sweep, from March 9 to 12, netted 425 Richmond
students who were not in school when they should have been.
The ordinance would establish RPAL and another partner, likely
the RYSE center, as permanent drop-off and counseling centers
for truants. Logistical conversations continue with both groups,
Contact Karl Fischer at 510-262-2728. Follow
him at Twitter.com/kfischer510.
If You Go
WHAT: Richmond City Council meeting
WHERE: 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond