Homeless beating raises curfew questions

New Mexico teenager

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s a story that has resonated throughout Albuquerque and New Mexico.

The story of three teens accused by police of beating two homeless men to death for the fun of it.

For Roswell mayor Dennis Kintigh, the case is a clear example of why Albuquerque and communities around the state should have a teen curfew in place. In a phone interview, he pointed to the 15-year-old charged in the deaths, Jeremy Tafoya.

“If he’d been [home safe] at that hour, he would not have been involved and possibly this incident would not have happened,” Kintigh said. “Nothing good happens to kids late at night when they’re out alone, unsupervised by a parent or guardian.”

It’s the inevitable debate that comes up during similar instances of teens either implicated or victimized in high profile cases.

Albuquerque’s been down this road before. In 1994, city council passed a law banning anyone 16 and under from being out past 11:00 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

It didn’t take long for the ACLU to fight back, filing a lawsuit on behalf of a group of young plaintiffs in 1995. It’s a stance the group backs today.

“We don’t want every teenager to be a suspected criminal just because they’re out after dark,” said Steven Allen, ACLU of New Mexico’s public policy director. “If these three teenagers were capable of doing that to these innocent homeless people, a teen curfew is going to have absolutely no effect on their behavior.”

In 1997, a New Mexico District Judge Robert Thompson determined the ordinance was invalid and prevented APD from enforcing it.  Two years after that, the New Mexico Supreme Court put the final nail in the ordinance’s coffin, ruling it violated state law.

There was an immediate effort from state lawmakers to make the adjustments needed to enable communities around the state to impose a curfew. From 2000 to 2005 seven different legislators, including five Democrats and two Republicans, sponsored attempts to allow the curfew without success.

The last attempt was made by Kintigh in 2012 during his final term as a state representative. His bill failed to clear the House.

It’s unclear if any future efforts would have the momentum needed based on discussions with a number of state lawmakers Tuesday.

While Mayor Marty Chavez was a big backer of the city’s curfew, current Albuquerque Mayor RJ Berry has not taken a stance.

Berry spokesperson Breanna Anderson tells News 13 Mayor Berry would like to discuss the issue with other mayors who have or soon will have teen curfews in place, but has no current plans to push for a curfew at this time.

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