A downtown Las Vegas curfew proposal that Mayor Carolyn Goodman wanted fast-tracked to the City Council hit a snag Tuesday amid concerns it was too broad and could lead to racial profiling and harassment of residents who live in and around the area in question.
The council Recommending Committee voted 2-1 to recommend a 30-day delay for the measure to make time to revise the proposed curfew for people under age 18 to address protests by residents and council members. The item will still appear on the agenda for Wednesday but with a recommendation to delay it for further debate.
Councilman Ricki Barlow, who represents part of the area covered by Goodman’s curfew proposal, said the idea raised questions about whether the downtown was becoming off-limits to residents in the immediate area, many of whom are working class and minority.
“It is important to me because I have heard from so many residents that they are not sure whether they are wanted downtown,” Barlow said after the Recommending Committee meeting during which he raised his voice loudly in opposition to the bill.
During the meeting Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony, a retired Metropolitan Police Department officer, rejected the notion police would use the curfew to harass minority residents. Barlow, who is black, recalled an incident of harassment he said he experienced as a young person.
In that incident Barlow said he and his brother were playing ball in the front yard of their home when an officer stopped, started to question them and would have taken them into custody had his parents not come outside and intervened.
“To say that it doesn’t happen, oh it does happen,” Barlow said. “It happened when I was a kid and it still happens today.”
Backers of the ordinance, a group that includes Las Vegas police and downtown business owners, said the proposal was meant to make downtown safer for adults and underage people and there was no intention to target innocent kids for harassment.
Under the plan a curfew for people under age 18 would be enforced beginning at 9 p.m. on weekends, which is three hours earlier than the existing, citywide curfew that would remain in place elsewhere.
The idea came from a large group made up mostly of business owners and concerned residents about rampant alcohol and crowd control problems happening on Fremont Street during First Fridays, which are monthly celebrations in the Arts District that have the byproduct of attracting people to the Fremont East bar district as well.
The surging crowds are drawn by the festival atmosphere and an influx of new bars, clubs and businesses attracted by city incentives aimed at reviving what had been a moribund area.
Among the problems with the surges are reports of underage people taking advantage of the large crowds attracted to the entertainment to blend in and illegally drink.
Goodman, who didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting, said through a spokesperson that she looks forward to discussing the item with the council Oct. 16. She agreed to sponsor the bill and backers sought to fast-track it with the hope it could be in place in time for the next First Friday event.
“If you are 17 years old or younger there are certain places you shouldn’t be going,” said Terry Murphy, a lobbyist for the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance. “It was never intended to harm any group or any individual.”
Las Vegas police Capt. Shawn Andersen said downtown can still be a dangerous place for kids, saying the rate for assault and battery with a deadly weapon is up 22 percent this year.
“The entertainment is drawing a lot more young people into an area that is not designed for them,” Andersen said, adding later, “We still struggle to make things safe.”
Backers noted the boundaries of the curfew zone presented Tuesday were pared back from the original proposal that covered much of the central city, including freeways and heavily trafficked thoroughfares.
The bill also contained exceptions for underage people attending special events and those heading home from jobs, provided they had a note from a supervisor attesting to their employment and schedule.
“The last thing the police are going to do is just stop that car and just take everybody to jail,” Anthony said in response concerns about major streets in the curfew zone. “I think this is a great idea.”
Opponents of the bill included the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Councilman Bob Coffin, whose ward includes some of the curfew zone, also voted to delay the proposal.
Coffin suggested using the time to focus the ordinance more tightly only on areas where there are problems and heavy concentrations of age-restricted bars and casinos.
He also said the proposed $300 fine for underage kids and potential $1,000 in fines for parents in addition to possible court fees and inconvenience is too big of burden for a curfew violation.
“It is really overkill even with this greatly reduced map,” Coffin said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @BenSpillman702.