Two officers knocked on the front door of a residence on Olmito Street, unsure of who or what would greet them on the other side. Then they entered.
Five minutes later, Alice Police officer Noel Trevino and Jim Wells County Juvenile Probation Officer Roland Saenz left the home waving at the smiling face of a mother whose son was found at home.
The scene was repeated time and again Thursday night, as the department intitiated their first round of their new Curfew Checks initiative.
It’s been more than 10 years since the juvenile probation department had a curfew check initiative in place, and at the time, it was less structured, with probation officers going out to homes from time to time on an irregular basis, said Juvenile Probation Director James Schmidt.
The new program will follow up on the kids given high-risk status by their probation officers on a random basis, not just in Alice, but in Orange Grove, Premont, Ben Bolt and the outlying county areas.
Schmidt said the department is determined, with the assistance of local law enforement agencies, to see that youth in the probation program are following rules both at school and at home.
“These kids only come to see us once a week at the office, but we want to let them know that we are going to come out and check at night, too. Most of them are either on probation or on conditions of release when they get out of detention, so they all have some sort of curfew,” Schmidt said.
The youth being checked range in age from 11 to 16 years old, most of whom have curfews of 6 p.m., unless they are under house arrest, in which case they are not allowed to leave their residence without permission from their supervising probation officer.
Schmidt said students under probation curfew can only leave in the evening while under the supervision of their parent or guardian.
APD Officer Trevino was on hand to escort the probation officers during their rounds.
In Texas, juvenile probation officers are not armed, so the presence of a licensed peace officer gives an added sense of security for the probation officers along with their bulletproof vests, are also given to each probation officer, officials said.
Juvenile Probation Officer Ricky Garcia said because of problems with gang activity and drive by shootings, once it begins to get dark, the officers don’t really know what to expect.
“This is just for the safety of ourselves and the department. Just because we have the vests doesn’t mean someone is going to attack us, it is just a safety precaution. It’s nice to have. Since we come up here unarmed,” Garcia said.
As far as the parent’s reaction to the curfew checks, Garcia said it helps them when it comes to managing their child’s behavior. Often, parents will try their best to do what is ordered by the court, Garcia said, but the youth sometimes take advantage of them by claiming officers aren’t going to check on them on a certain day.
“What happens is that they’ll bug the parents so much that the parents will say, ‘OK, go ahead mi hijito, go on and be back at this time.’ They’re taking advantage of the situation,” Garcia said. “This way they know that we are coming, but they don’t know when we’ll be coming, and it’s part of their conditions. If they do not follow through, they will end up at one of our facilities, and they don’t want to be at our facilities.”
The random curfew checks let’s the students know that it’s going to be their responsibility, not their parents, to obey the rules and conditions of the court.
“We’re giving the kids the help they need by making them responsible for their actions,” Garcia said.
And the consequences are real.
“If we do catch these kids in violation of their curfew, we will file on them with the district attorney’s office. We aren’t doing this for fun, this is the real deal,” Schmidt said. “I want these kids to know that we are serious. Between the increased gang activity and drive by shootings, we want them to know that if they violate something, we are going to file on them.”