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Public hearing set for July 20

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Kaufman County plans juvenile curfew

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KAUFMAN COUNTY–Commissioners held discussion with Kaufman County Sheriff Bryan Beavers, Kaufman County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Laura Peace, Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley and Kaufman County Court at Law Judge Tracy Gray July 6, on establishing a juvenile curfew for the county. 
During the discussion, Peace stated that there is one number they need to focus on. “We’ve had an 81% increase in felony offenses in the past three years,” Peace said then continued, “Y’all know crime is up, population has a lot to do with that and kids are out at night, they are out on the street.” Peace stated that she felt this was a wonderful idea and though it presented some complications for the offices involved, it would be the first step in catching the kids before they get to the felony offense level. She said there were many numbers she could present to the commissioners, but the felony offenses are skyrocketing. 
Gray stated via telephone that the idea of a curfew came about from the amount of detention hearings she was having. These hearings were car thefts and gun related offenses Gray disclosed to the commissioners. She noticed that once the sheriff’s department began working some of the areas that many of the offenses were occurring in, the number of detention hearings started going down. “So, it got me thinking about a curfew and I reached out to the sheriff, but I completely agree with Laura, if we can stop these kids from being outside before they steal the car, break into the car, take the gun, then I think the number of violent crimes will go down,” stated Gray. Gray is confident it will help the citizens and community.  
Wiley stated that the group met in a workshop and discussed other Texas counties that have implemented similar curfews, citing Dallas, Paris, El Paso, Nueces and Montgomery Counties. The proposed order suggests that between the hours of midnight to 6 a.m. children and juveniles are to be home or in the custody of a parent. In the fall when school returns to session, children and juveniles will be required to stay home or in the custody of a parent between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Wiley states that there are exceptions for school activities, homeschoolers or emergencies. “We are not trying to arrest juveniles, we are not trying to arrest children, but we are going to start notifying parents if their children are out after midnight, without an emergency. We are going to contact them,” states Wiley. The penalties that are proposed for offenses are $100 for a first-time violation and $500 for more severe violations or repeat offenders.  
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Cates stated, “First let me say, I support the concept. We certainly need to be proactive and to interdict, if you will, problem behavior before it happens but it is a restriction of your rights, your individual rights. It just seems to me that since our goal is voluntary compliance…that it would be worth considering having some public discussion of this before we actually move forward.” Cates followed up his statement saying, he would like to have the opportunity to hear from his constituents on the curfew first.
Commissioners unanimously approved tabling the order in favor of hearing from residents during a public hearing. The public hearing has been scheduled where all residents of Kaufman County are invited to learn more about the proposed curfew and share their comments and concerns at 9 a.m., Tuesday, July 20, during the Kaufman County Commissioners Court. The meeting will be held in the Courthouse Annex Courtroom, which is located at 100 N. Washington Street in Kaufman. You may also watch the meeting live by going to the county website www.kaufmancounty.net and clicking on court meetings. 
“We want Kaufman County to be a place where our youth are safe and protected,” said Kaufman County Judge Hal Richards. “I am optimistic that parents will be supportive of the county’s effort to do just that.” 
Residents may provide comments or concerns during the public hearing July 20 or submit comments by emailing info@kaufmancounty.net.  
In other business, commissioners:
• Approved the purchase of material from The Railroad Yard, Inc. in the amount of $63,000 for Precinct 4 Road and Bridge, a 36 month commercial lease agreement between 101 N Houston Street, LLC and Kaufman County for property located at 101 N Houston Street, in Kaufman, the receipt, transfer and disposal of county owned assets, the purchase of a Broce RJT350 Road Construction Sweeper in the amount of $62,527.80 for Precinct 1 and Road Construction Contracts and associated funding for precincts 3 and 4 county road and bridge projects in the amount of $1,910,144.86.
• Approved NCT 9-1-1 County Interlocal Agreement for Local Addressing and GIS Services. 
• Approved the disbursement of the unclaimed capital credits fund from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. 
• Approved to contact Levee Improvement Districts 1 and 5 concerning the transfer of funds owned by the LID’s and held by Kaufman County. 
• Approved a plat for Hickory Subdivision located on County Road 4097 in Precinct 4. 
• Approved claims for payment in the amount of $451,681.70.