For many adults today, the idea of a curfew came from their parents more than it came from their community where they lived. Over the last 20 years, however, more and more cities have begun to impose youth curfews. As early as 1995, 70% of the major metropolitan areas in the US had a youth curfew in place and more than half of them considered their curfews to be effective.
93% of the cities that have a youth curfew in place believe that it is a useful tool for police officers to prevent juveniles from becoming victims.
Not every community believes that a youth curfew is a useful tool, however, and the most common reason is that it removes parental control. It creates a situation where the city or community, in fact, ends up taking on the role of the parent. All youth are affected by a curfew, not just those who break the law, and in some communities the curfew just creates more crime that must be handled.
- Although most curfews are seen as a means of controlling the movement of kids at night, daytime curfews exist in over 70 US cities as well.
- 86% of cities in a 1995 survey stated that they believed enforcing their youth curfews helped to make the streets safer for all of their residents.
- 83% of cities in this same survey also stated that having a curfew in place was an effective tool to help curb gang violence activities.
How effective can teenage curfews be? A lot of that depends on the community where the curfew is either being considered or enforced. Communities that have high levels of youth violence at a particular time of day can help to control this problem through curfews. For other communities where youth delinquency is a minimal problem at best, the teenage curfews are seen by many households as a punitive measure that restricts the rights of teens that have no history of delinquency. The reality of the teenage curfew, however, is that it may not be as effective as some people think it may be.
- Data from 35 states and the District of Columbia suggest that the vast majority of violent crime occurs at 3pm, right at the close of school and happens on school days and in the evening hours.
- Most curfew hours that are enforced in a majority of cities occurs when youth violence rates are already at their lowest.
- On non-school days, the most common time for a crime to be committed by a juvenile offender is between 7-9pm.
- Only 15% of juvenile crime occurs during the standard curfew hours of 10pm to 6am, which is why many cities are looking at non-traditional curfew hours.
- A recent study by UC-Berkeley showed that in 54 cities that had a population of 180,000 or more, youth arrests dropped by 10% once a youth curfew was instituted.
- 56% of survey cities had a youth curfew in effect for less than 10 years and only 53% of the cities with a curfew had officials that directly attributed a decrease in teenage crime with the curfew.
- Only 26 cities with a night curfew for teens are able to provide any date on crime reduction relating to juveniles, which saw a total average of 21%, but some cities saw just a 2-3% drop in crime.
- Curfew hours vary, but often begin at 10 or 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends, and end at 5 or 6 a.m.
Teenage curfews need to be consistently enforced in order for them to be effective, yet there is still a question about how legal it is to restrict the rights of someone to be able to enjoy their community. Most curfew laws allow for teens to be in the company of an adult and not be in violation of the curfew, but not every city has this. Some communities have even taken the curfew laws a step further to prevent teens from getting behind the wheel to drive somewhere on their own after 10pm. With 10% of curfew cities seeing rises in teen crime and another 11% seeing no change at all, it is clear to see that teenage curfew isn’t always as effective as it appears to be on paper.
- 23% of cities that have a teenage curfew in place have reported problems effectively implementing their curfew.
- Another 23% of cities stated that the increased costs of enforcing the curfew made it difficult to have the laws be effective.
- 14% of cities reported that there were Constitutional challenges to the wording of their curfew laws.
- The first year that a curfew is in place typically shows the largest drops in teenage arrests and crime and then a permanent 10% drop is usually seen as a new baseline.
- There is an assumption that most teens who are out after the curfew hours are looking for trouble.
- Although curfew arrests in California nearly quadrupled from 1989 to 1996, there was no corresponding decrease in the youth crime rates for the states.
- In Monrovia, CA, which was the first daytime curfew city, the data suggests that youth crime rose by 53% during curfew hours and dropped by 12% when the curfew was suspended.
There’s no easy answer to the problem of teenage crime. With gang activities in some cities, boredom in others, and the natural tendency of kids to gather together and come up with plans that aren’t as brilliant as they initially seem, a youth curfew looks good on paper at first. The only problem is that these statistics can be manipulated to support either side of the equation, which means that ultimately teenage curfews are more about peace of mind than anything else. Do communities have a responsibility to provide a solid foundation for the kids that call the area home? If they do, are there other ways beyond a teenage curfew that can help to make this happen? With fines sometimes being as high as $1,000 for a first-time curfew violation, it’s easy to see why teenage curfews aren’t always seen as a beneficial law – especially if crime rates are static or rise in that community.