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Tyler Aken

Professor Dada

ENG 111-29

October 29, 2017

Should There Be a Legal Curfew For Minors?

Since the 1970s, there has been a strong movement by many American cities to enact a

type of legislation aimed at reducing youth-based crimes. This type of legislation is a curfew,

restricting those within certain age ranges from being in public during certain hours of the day.

This legislation was enacted in response to the growing juvenile crime during the 1970s

(Henry). This movement gained popularity during the 90s, with 73% of cities with populations

over 100,000 implementing teen curfew laws (Ruefle and Reynolds). Although while curfews

may have been enacted as a way to deter juvenile crime, the enforceability, effectiveness and

impact of the law onto certain communities has been brought into question. While this law may

have good intentions, it seems to be clear that it is not a fair and effective solution for the

problem that it was intended to aid.

Curfews have been touted as a way to reduce overall youth crime, by preventing them

from committing said crime during curfew hours, although there has been some question as to

whether these curfews are actually effective in reducing crime. In a 3-year study, conducted by

Richard Sutphen and Janet Ford on the effect of a curfew on arrest rates, they find that the

curfew was not associated with significant changes in the juvenile arrest rates for any kind of

crime including serious (violent) crimes (Sutphen and Ford). In another study, we take a look at

Prince William County, while they implemented a curfew for many the same reasons that other
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cities in the United States did, to reduce youth crime, their police chief at the time, Charline

Deane, said this, "we are not surprised that the curfew has not reduced {juvenile crime}, since a

significant percentage of crimes occur before curfew hours," in an interview regarding the recent

curfew (Grech). These studies seem to reach the same conclusion, prohibiting teenagers from

being in public during these hours has had no effect on crime. The police departments of these

cities that enforce the curfew all hold an opposing viewpoint, that the effects of the curfew are

for the well-being and reassurance of citizens, rather than actually reducing crime. There seems

to be a disconnect between legislators that enforce these policies and the reality of the situation

The examples showed that the curfews do not reduce crime, although, in a study

conducted by Jennifer Doleac, an assistant professor at UVA, and Jillian Carr an assistant

professor at Purdue, find that the curfew in Washington D.C actually serves to increase gunfire

incidents by 150% during marginal hours (Keep the Kids Inside 2). Jennifer Doleac and Jillian

Carr were able to come to that conclusion by examining the time change in the curfew from

summer when kids are out of school, when the curfew is set to 12am, to fall, when the children

return to school, when the curfew is set to 11pm(Repealing juvenile curfew laws could make

cities safer). They note that when the curfew becomes in enforceable at 11pm, instead of

midnight, gunfire should decrease between 11pm and 12am (Repealing juvenile curfew laws

could make cities safer). However, they note that the opposite of that actually occurs. Using

data provided by ShotSpotter, acoustic gunshot sensors that cover many violent neighborhoods

in D.C, they find that the amount of gunfire that occurs during that hour when the curfew is

enforced increases by 150% in comparison to when the curfew is not in effect at that hour

(Keep the Kids Inside 4). Doleac and Carr propose a theory that, by incentivizing people

(both juveniles and their caregiversparents, older siblings) to go home earlier, they clear the
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streets of bystanders and witnesses whose mere presence could deter crime (Repealing juvenile

curfew laws could make cities safer). It seems to be apparent that this claim is correct, that the

curfew actually increases the amount of crime that occurs due to the fact that less witnesses may

be in the area. This study shows that on top of the fact that while these curfews do not reduce the

amount of crime that occurs, it can actually serve as a catalyst for more violent crime to occur.

There should be no basis to keep a law in tact that will serve to only increase various types of

crime that can affect the public safety of a community.

A noticeable problem when it comes to a youth curfew can be its ability to actually be

enforced. Most curfews are applied to any person who may be under eighteen years old, although

there are many teens out there who can easily appear older or younger than that of their

counterparts. Police departments have taken an interesting take on combating this problem, many

have implemented, Curfew Task Forces, that perform curfew sweeps. These curfew sweeps

involve officers that are specifically dedicated to combat the curfew, by asking individuals who

look like they may be breaking the curfew. Although these sweeps may catch violators, a former

LAPD Police Chief, Bernard Parks, points out that these sweeps costed a total of 3600 office

hours in a six-month period (Lait). Another notable fact taken from the police chief is that only

17% of curfew citations were from task forces, with the remaining percentage from officers on

their regular duty shifts (Lait). Overall, while these laws may be enforced, the methods by which

they are enforced seem to take up valuable time from officers that could easily be spent

patrolling the streets, monitoring for more violent crimes.

While police officers may try their best to find those who are in violation of these

curfews, there has become a trend that develops with curfew violations. This trend being that

those who are found in violation of the curfew are being found to be disproportionally targeted in
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terms of their racial or gender groups. In New Orleans, while African Americans only make up

60% of the population there 93% of youths that were found in violation of the curfew were

African American, in contrast, while Caucasians make up 33% of the population in New

Orleans, only 6% of people found in violation of the curfew were Caucasian (Vargas). In Austin,

a similar trend is found, although at a smaller scale, according to a report from the city of Austin,

Black youth account for 17% of all [Austin Police Department] APD tickets and 18% of

[Austin Independent School District] AISD tickets, but represent 8% of the population aged 10-

17 (City of Austin). Lastly, in the city of San Diego, the same trend is found yet again as noted

in the San Diego Tribune, Hispanics represent 33 percent of the San Diego County population

and 49 percent of the countys 2014 curfew arrests. Blacks represent five percent of the San

Diego County population, and more than 16 percent of curfew arrests in 2014 were of black

youth (Morrisey). It seems to be clear that these laws, while not their intent, seem to unjustly

target certain racial groups.

While youth curfews may not necessarily have a direct effect on crime, these statues

serve to provide an emotional effect on various members of the community. Curfews tend to

have the effect of providing people a sense of well-being believing that children may be safe

since its against the law for them to be outside. Many parents also support the idea of a youth

curfew, they subscribe to the belief that while the curfew may not help reduce crime its nice for

them to know that there wont be children on the streets. Overall the emotional effect of this law

is one of the main reasons that this law has not been abolished. However, our laws should not be

tailored to appeal the emotions of the members of our communities, rather they should be made

to create real change in our communities.

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In conclusion, youth curfews have seemed to have lost their general purpose, reducing

youth crime, as they have not completed that objective since being enacted. Youth curfews have

proved to be difficult for many police departments to enforce, taking resources away from their

department and requiring man hours just to police these curfews. These curfews have also

disproportionately targeted certain racial groups, like the city of Austin had found, and they have

since repealed these curfews. Collectively we need to take a look at these curfews again, much

like the city of Austin has, to determine whether these curfews are helping our youth or hurting

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Works Cited

Carr, Jillian B. and Jennifer L. Doleac. "Keep the Kids Inside? Juvenile Curfews and Urban Gun

Violence." 1 December 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2486903 or


City of Austin. Report on Austin Juvenile Curfew Ordinance. Austin, 2016.


Doleac, Jennifer L and Jillian Carr. Repealing juvenile curfew laws could make cities safer. 29 December

2015. 30 October 2017. <https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/repealing-juvenile-curfew-laws-


Grech, Daniel A. "The Washington Post." Curfew Popular but Not a Crime Fighter, Study Finds 16 June

1999. Newspaper.

Henry, Tamara. " Curfews Attempt to Curb Teen Crime." USA Today 5 April 1995. Magazine.

Lait, Matt. "Los Angeles Times." Study Finds Curfew Law Fails to Curb Violent Crime 2 February 1998.

Web. <http://articles.latimes.com/1998/feb/10/local/me-17512>.

Morrisey, Kate. "The San Diego Union-Tribune." Are San Diego's curfew sweeps obsolete? 8 July 2016.



Ruefle, W. and K. M. Reynolds. "Curfews and delinquency in major American cities." Crime and

Delinquency (1995): 347-63.

Sutphen, Richard D. and Janet Ford. "The Effectiveness and Enforcement." Journal of Sociology & Social

Welfare (2001): 74.

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Vargas, Ramon A. "The Times-Picayune." New Orleans' curfew enforcement is racially biased,

ineffective, critics say; but NOPD Chief disagrees 20 March 2013. Web.