The Wheelwright City Commission is considering changes to the city’s curfew ordinance.
During a meeting last week, the commission held the first reading of an ordinance that establishes curfews for children under the age of 18. If it is approved at a future meeting, this ordinance would replace another one the city approved in 1996.
The ordinance notes that the curfew is being established to “protect minors and all citizens.”
It prohibits any person under the age of 18 to “remain in or upon any public assembly, building, place, street or highway” in Wheelwright from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day.
It also establishes that it will be unlawful for any parent or guardian to allow a minor to violate the curfew.
It does, however, provide exceptions for children who are accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult, when they are exercising their First Amendment rights, during emergencies, are on the sidewalk near his/her home, while en route or returning from a school or religious activity or occupation and when driving through town.
The ordinance imposes a fine of $100 for the first offense and $250 for every offense thereafter for any minor, parent or guardian who violates the ordinance.
The previous ordinance allows children to be on the streets until midnight on the weekends on 11 p.m. on weekdays and it established a fine of $500 for violators.
City Attorney Tyler Green said someone who violates the ordinance 10 days in a row could face 10 separate charges, or fines.
Officials discussed the possibility of holding the second reading of the ordinance at a special meeting.
It marks the second time the city addressed the curfew ordinance this year. Earlier this year, they asked a police officer to start enforcing it in the city.
Mayor Don Hall previously said enforcement of the curfew is needed because of complaints from elderly residents. He said residents were “really scared” when the city went months without a police officer patrolling the town. He said the number of underage children outside late at night has “gotten bad” in Wheelwright.
“It’s for these elderly people who live here because they hear these kids running in the neighborhood and it scares them,” Hall said. “This community is built up by mostly old people, elderly, and they get scared. These kids, when they run through this neighborhood, they may run in their backyard and they may stay up the rest of the night scared that somebody’s trying to break in on them. We have a lot of complaints from the elderly people, saying that.”