A proposed youth curfew that would prohibit minors from being out past 10 p.m. on week nights was derailed Tuesday night because of the expense and a fear of police abuse.
Disappointed, Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland), who sponsored the ordinance, said he did not intend to criminalize youth.
The curfew, he said, was targeted at protecting youth. "How do we stop the insane violence that has taken so many young people's lives?" he asked.
Except under some circumstances, the ordinance would have kept minors indoors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
It is dangerous to be on the streets of Oakland after midnight, Councilmember Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown) said Tuesday evening during the Public Safety Committee meeting, where the proposal was introduced.
Although Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) said she had reservations about the proposal, she added that, "We cannot ignore that there are some very real problems. We have to find some real solutions."
"We have solutions," yelled a man in the crowd that filled the City Council chambers.
Opponents told the committee that the ordinance was too blunt a tool for protecting young people and missed the mark. Minors, they said, need more youth centers that stay open later, more activities and better schools instead of a curfew.
In addition, the ordinance would not address violence and sexual exploitation of young people that were the stated reasons behind the curfew, said Andrew Wilson, a teenage representative of the All City Council program. The group is a liaison between students of Oakland schools and policy makers.
Jeers and hisses rang out when supporters said a curfew would be a way of giving police tools to fight crime. "This is a chance to keep our youth safe," said Preston Taylor, an Oakland business owner.
There is no legitimate reason for minors to be out at 2 a.m., Taylor said, adding that he understood young people feel penalized by the curfew but that it would be a tool for police to prevent crime instead of reacting to it when it's too late.
Similar past proposal by city officials, including former Mayor Elihu Harris and former City Manager Robert Bobb, failed early on because of a fear, among other politically charged issues, of racial profiling — a fear opponents voiced numerous times Tuesday.
The ordinance would give police the right to stop anyone regardless, said Max Hayashi, 23.
Minors who break the curfew would not be arrested or cited under the ordinance. Parents or guardians of youths who broke the curfew multiple times could have been charged for a misdemeanor or an infraction depending on the circumstances.
Officer Ed Tracey tried to reassure the crowd, saying Oakland police would be trained to focus on intervention and not criminalizing young people. But the timing in the wake of several controversies involving Oakland police, the shooting death of Oscar Grant III by a BART officer, and deep budget woes doomed the ordinance that would have cost $75,290 for a year of regular enforcement and a dozen sweeps.
The ordinance was supposed to come before the committee in November but was delayed to include more input by neighborhood crime prevention and youth groups, Reid said.
Because of the opposition, Taylor said, "the committee ducked out of their leadership role."
The ordinance is available online at clerkwebsvr1.oaklandnet.com/attachments/21103.pdf.