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Posted on March 23, 2010

Richmond Considers School-time Curfew for Minors
City Council to weigh police proposal for daytime curfew, citations for violators

By Karl 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 Police Department.

"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 added]

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 program started.

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 said.

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, Magnus said.

Contact Karl Fischer at 510-262-2728. Follow him at

If You Go
WHAT: Richmond City Council meeting
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. today
WHERE: 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond


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