Aldermen plan to wait two to four more weeks before a final vote on a citywide juvenile curfew, following a second public hearing on the matter Tuesday at City Hall.
Police Chief Mark Ballard, who fielded aldermen’s questions at the hearing, has asked for an ordinance establishing a juvenile curfew and truancy law to decrease auto burglaries and, in turn, mitigate juvenile crime.
If passed, the curfew would apply to ages 17 and under. It would run from midnight to 5 a.m.
As mentioned in the first public hearing in May, many variables contribute to juvenile crime, Ballard said, but auto burglaries are often the key component in Starkville. Minors steal firearms out of vehicles and then use those weapons to commit violence, he said. Just this year, 36 firearms have been stolen out of vehicles as of Tuesday, he said.
“Auto burglary is not new to our department,” Ballard said. “In fact, it has been a problem for years now. … We have tried camera tracking. We have done vehicle patrol. We have done bicycle patrol. We have done educational programs, and we have not seen the dropout (of auto burglaries) that we are looking for.”
Violent incidents in Starkville just this year include a double homicide on Pilcher Street on March 3, an Easter Sunday murder a block from there and a shooting with no injuries April 20 at McKee Park.
Ballard said he believes the city could see a possible reduction in juvenile crime from this curfew because there was a drop off during the citywide curfew during the peak of COVID-19. He said a 15-percent decrease in stolen weapons would be ideal.
While the original proposed hours were 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight-6 a.m. Friday and Saturday for anyone under the age of 18, the board unanimously agreed the curfew hours should be midnight-5 a.m. every night of the week.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said these hours will be more suitable for those affected by the ordinance.
“The consensus for these crimes seems to be 2, 3 o’clock in the morning,” Sistrunk said. “I want us to draw the hours as narrowly as we can.”
Aside from the potential ordinance, Ballard said SPD has other plans for reducing juvenile crime and auto burglaries in the area as well, such as community education, instruction on locking doors and involvement at Mississippi State University new student orientations.
“This is just a tool of the many tools we plan to utilize,” Ballard said.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she believes the aldermen will vote on the ordinance at the next board meeting June 15 as long as SPD knows what course of action to take if they find a minor out past curfew hours.
“One thing we want to try to do is make sure we have a process set up, so that if we get juveniles during that window of the curfew, we can get a hold of the parents,” Spruill said. “If we can’t get a hold of the parents, we have to have a process after that, and so that’s what we’re working the details on right now.”
Starkville moved a step closer to landing a Jack’s Family Restaurant on Tuesday, after aldermen approved a setback variance for the property.
Lewko Properties plans to bring the fast-food restaurant to 780 Louisville Street, in the parking lot in front of Dirt Cheap. The variance will allow the building to set back 46.73 feet from the road, while code allows a maximum of 30 feet in a commercial zone.