Education Feature
Curfews Can Reduce Crime
By Robert Seith
CWK Senior Producer

"Shoot, everything happens real late at night. I mean, it does."
-Michael, a 17-year-old, explaining why he thinks curfews work to reduce teenage crime-

When asked what he would think was going on if he saw a crowd of teenagers hanging out late at night, 17-year-old Simon says, “I assume that there probably is a lot of drug use, and alcohol consumption…”

And then, he adds, “Trespassing, vandalism, mailboxes might get broken."

When the sun goes down, are teenagers more likely to get into trouble?

“Shoot, everything happens real late at night. I mean, it does,” confirms 17-year-old Michael.

17-year-old Rochelle adds, “Well that’s kind of a stereotype, but they might be the type that are into bad things.”

The stereotype now comes with hard statistics. In a new survey by the National League of Cities, 97 percent of cities and towns with nighttime curfews report a drop in juvenile crime.

“Not only are we worried about the fact that they may commit a crime while they’re out, but the fact that they may also be victimized while they’re out,” says Police Spokesman Officer Chris Lagerbloom.

But experts say curfews should reflect the views of the community…. for example: kids with night jobs, or involved in extracurricular activities, or with a note from their parents… they could be exempt.

“Have specific exceptions to the rule,” suggests civic leader Debbie Gibson, “…if you have parental permission to be out at that time, then you would not fall under this category, if you’re coming home from a date… I mean you can kind of customize it to your own community.”

Still…. most kids won’t like it.

“I hate being home, hate having to be at a certain place at a certain time…don’t like it at all,” confirms Michael.

But parents can explain to their children that a citywide curfew for all kids is better than a parental curfew that only applies to them.

“If everyone else had to go at the same time I did, and I knew everyone else wasn’t out having fun… I’d be like, ‘alright, this is fine,’” says Michael.

Fighting Crime With Curfews

By Tom Atwood
CWK Network

Curfews have always been a controversial issue between parents and children. Now the increasing use of curfews by towns and cities—to fight juvenile crime—is generating controversy nationwide. The National League of Cities recently polled 800 cities that have implemented curfews. The survey, conducted by Insta-Poll, shows that curfews are ”cost-effective and useful,” and that “a growing number of city officials have confidence in curfews as an effective strategy to help curb gang violence.” However, the American Civil Liberties Union opposes curfews for everyone, including teenagers, because “these laws criminalize normal and otherwise lawful behavior—such as standing on a street corner—and are unconstitutionally vague and broad.”

Listed below are some highlights from the National League of Cities curfew survey. Of the 800 cities polled:

  • 97% say curfews are effective in combating juvenile crime.

  • 96% say curfews are effective in fighting truancy.

  • 88% say curfews are effective in reducing gang violence.

  • 56% reported drops in violent crime within one year of implementing a nighttime curfew.

  • 55% reported a drop in gang activity.

  • 88% reported no problems implementing their curfew.

  • 89% said there were no significant new costs for their police departments.

More than half the cities polled (52%) had curfews of 11p.m. during the week for children under 18. The curfews were extended one hour to midnight on the weekends by 55% of the surveyed cities. Daytime curfews are also being implemented in some cities. Thirty-five percent cited “school hours” as the hours of their daytime curfews. Another 21% reported 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. as their hours of enforcement.

Opposing View

The ACLU has been involved in legal battles against various municipal curfew laws. The organization believes that curfews, “like other tough-sounding anti-crime strategies, are not solutions. They divert the public’s attention from real crime prevention programs and mask the underlying causes of crime. What curfews really mean,” the ACLU says, “ is that law abiding citizens will be stopped and questioned for no reason. And inevitably, broad laws like these produce uneven or discriminatory enforcement—studies have found that curfew restrictions are disproportionately enforced in minority communities.”

What Parents Can Do

According to Girls and Boys Town, curfews set by parents can teach valuable lessons to teenagers. Curfews can help parents and children develop a “trusting relationship.” When a teenager comes home on time, parents tend to trust the teen more and consider him or her more responsible. Some suggestions regarding curfews (from Girls and Boys Town)

  • Before your teens go out, find out where they are going, what they’ll be doing, and who’s driving, and set up a clear time for when they need to be home.
  • Never let your teens go to parties or activities that don’t have adequate adult supervision.
  • Check on your teens once in a while. Make a big deal out it if they are where they’re supposed to be. Restrict their activities for a while if they’re not where they told you they would be.
  • Within reason (generally between midnight and 1:00 a.m.) extend your teens’ curfew if they’ve demonstrated they can be trusted.
  • Establish a pattern of talking with your teens each night after they come home. It’s worth the loss of sleep.
  • Frequently, talk with the parents of your teens’ friends.

National League of Cities
American Civil Liberties Union
Girls and Boys Town