Proposal shrinks geographic area of suggested downtown curfew

A controversial proposal to impose a stricter curfew on kids in downtown Las Vegas is back, albeit in dramatically reduced form.

The latest version of the bill by Mayor Carolyn Goodman reduces the zone where the new curfew is to be enforced to include Fremont street, plus two blocks to the north and south, from Main Street to Maryland Parkway, according to Councilman Bob Coffin.

It’s a far cry from the original proposal that drew criticism from the ACLU of Nevada, youth advocates and others who objected to imposing a separate, stricter curfew over a section of the city that’s home to many low income and minority residents.

By limiting the curfew zone to several blocks of real estate dominated by bars and casinos the updated version goes a long way to assuage civil liberty and fairness concerns raised by the original proposal.

“My main battle was to get the thing reduced,” Coffin said of the curfew zone, first proposed in August as a too to keep young people away from adult attractions on Fremont Street.

The original bill, however, went well beyond Fremont Street and covered an area between U.S. Highway 95, Sahara Avenue, Eastern Avenue and Interstate 15.

Within that area, the weekend curfew for people under age 18 would begin at 9 p.m., three hours earlier than the existing citywide curfew.

Critics said the curfew would result in an unfair burden on residents, many of whom already are wary of police and unable to afford fines that could be imposed on kids or their parents.

On Sept. 17, the City Council Recommending Committee, which includes Coffin, voted 2-1 to recommend the council delay voting on the bill in order to take more time for revisions.

The pared back version Coffin described Monday is even narrower than the version posted online with the committee’s agenda. The version on the agenda includes Las Vegas Boulevard from U.S. 95 to Wyoming Avenue and west to the Union Pacific railroad tracks. A proposed amendment that’s not posted with the agenda shows the even smaller zone Coffin described.

But even with reductions, critics of the idea say a stricter downtown curfew as a solution to make kids safer shows a lack of understanding of life for young people in downtown Las Vegas.

Forcing kids away from the brightest, most entertaining zone in the downtown area is only going to make them feel more alienated from their community, said Cameron Catton, youth services manager at the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada.

The Fremont Street Experience canopy and nearby Fremont East Entertainment District are often the only lively zones in a downtown marked by blight and vacant land.

Catton said it’s no wonder young people, particularly those with nowhere else to go at night, would be attracted to the action.

“You are in an area that is dark and depressing all the time then you have this shining oasis, who wouldn’t want to go there,” Catton said.

He also said even kids who aren’t spending time under the canopy or near the bars could be nabbed passing through and subject to fines they and their family can’t afford to pay.

Youth programs at the center, for example, attract kids who then have to get home once the facility closes at 10 p.m. Catton worried that if kids were cited after leaving from an event they could reject downtown area youth programs altogether.

“It just turns a positive thing into a blemish,” he said.

The curfew bill is on the Recommending Committee agenda for Tuesday and the City Council agenda for Wednesday.

Contact Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @BenSpillman702