Youth curfews have been introduced in 78 out of 93 large US cities
About us | Quiénes somos |
A propos de nous | Über uns |
Youth curfews in US cities
USA racial profiling
US mayors fight against guns
US debates use of marijuana
US prison closures - Cities
US urban inequality
Vision for metro America
US metro 2010
America jails its youth
America's children of prisoners
US abortion debate
Gay rights in US cities
US clergy and local politics
US poverty 2011
2009 homelessnees in US cities
US mayors silent on racial profiling
English-only US cities
Security cameras in US cities
Obamas' urban policies
US gun contol in tatters
Minorities in the US
Black American men
Catholic Church in urban USA
US poverty underestimated
NYC Mayor to tackle poverty
Low-cost clothing to curb inner city violence
City Mayors reports news from towns and cities around the world. Worldwide | Elections | North America | Latin America | Europe | Asia | Africa | Events |
Mayors from The Americas, Europe. Asia, Australia and Africa are competing for the annual World Mayor Award. More
City Mayors ranks the world’s largest as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More
City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More
City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. More
City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world and questions them about their achievements, policies and aims. More
City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More
City Mayors reports on how business developments impact on cities and examines cooperation between cities and the private sector. More
City Mayors describes and explains financial issues affecting local government. More
City Mayors lists and features urban events, conferences and conventions aimed at urban decision makers and those with an interst in cities worldwide. More
City Mayors reports urban environmental developments and examines the challenges faced by cities worldwide. More
City Mayors reports on and discusses urban development issues in developed and developing countries. More
City Mayors reports on developments in urban society and behaviour and reviews relevant research. More
City Mayors deals with urban transport issues in developed and developing countries and features the world’s greatest metro systems. More
City Mayors examines education issues and policies affecting children and adults in urban areas. More
City Mayors investigates health issues affecting urban areas with an emphasis on health in cities in developing countries. More
City Mayors examines the importance of urban tourism to city economies. More
City Mayors examines the contributions history and culture make to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors describes the history, architecture and politics of the greatest city halls in the world. More
City Mayors invites readers to write short stories about people in cities around the world. More
City Mayors questions those who govern the world’s cities and talks to men and women who contribute to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors profiles national and international organisations representing cities as well as those dealing with urban issues. More
City Mayors reports on major national and international sporting events and their impact on cities. More
City Mayors lists cities and city organisations, profiles individual mayors and provides information on hundreds of urban events. More
Youth curfews popular with American cities
but effectiveness and legality are questioned
By Tony Favro, USA Editor
21 July 2009: At least 500 US cities have curfews on teenage youth, including 78 of the 92 cities with a population greater than 180,000. In most of these cities, curfews prohibit children under 18 from being on the streets after 11:00 pm during the week and after midnight on weekends. About 100 cities also have daytime curfews to keep children off the streets during school hours. The curfews are designed to prevent crime, increase parental responsibility for their children, and give police greater ability to stop people involved in suspicious activity.
| History | Effectiveness | The courts | Crime prevention |
Youth curfews are popular with the public because they are inexpensive relative to other crime-fighting tools and have an easy-to-understand logic: If kids are home, they won’t commit crimes or be victims of crimes. However, there is little empirical evidence that curfews deter crime and reduce juvenile victimization. Curfews are also challenged on constitutional grounds.
The first youth curfew was adopted by Omaha, Nebraska in 1880. In 1884, President Benjamin Harrison called curfews “the most important municipal regulation for the protection of children in American homes from the vices of the street.”
Chicago, the nation’s largest city with a curfew, passed its law in 1955. By 1960, 60 of the 110 US cities with a population over 100,000 had curfews. Thirty years later, 200 US cities had a population over 100,000, and 150 of these cities had curfews. In 1996, President Bill Clinton endorsed youth curfews for helping “keep our children of harm’s way.” In the late-1990s, the US Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities began issuing Best Practices for cities to follow when enacting curfews.
In 2000, when 337 cities had curfews, Bob Knight, then-President of the National League of Cities and mayor of Wichita, Kansas, called curfews “a growing trend in the United States as city officials look for answers to ensure the safety of youth in their communities.” Since 2000, the number of US cities with curfews increased an estimated 50 per cent to about 500.
In the earliest years, curfews were aimed almost exclusively at keeping young criminals off the street. Today, new curfew legislation often tries to solve more complex social ills, such as the inability of parents to control their children and the alarming number of innocent children who are the unintended victims of drive-by shootings and other adult violence.
Three years after San Antonio, Texas enacted a curfew, the victimization of youth dropped 84 per cent. Detroit, Cincinnati, New Orleans, and other cities report similar results. Still, the precise reasons for the decrease in crime rates are difficult to discern. There are many factors weather, for example that must be considered. “Despite their popularity with local governments, little is know about the effects of curfew laws on youth outcomes,” according to a study of the impact of juvenile curfew laws by Patrick Kline of the University of Michigan,
There are several methodological problems which make an empirical study of curfews difficult. Cities enact their curfews in different years; some in response to an outbreak of youth violence, others as a measure to prevent youth violence. This complicates the comparison of before-and-after crime rates between cities. Curfews also appear to effect on youth above the curfew age, who look younger and are thus often stopped by police. Juvenile arrests increase significantly in most cities with curfews, and the long-term impact of this criminalization of youth is unknown. For these and other reasons, according to Kline, “it’s not surprising that past studies have typically failed to find an effect of curfews on juvenile crime.”
In addition to citing the lack of definitive research that curfews reduce crime by youth, opponents also maintain that curfews prevent parents from exercising full control over their children and allow children to be unreasonably detained. Curfews, according to opponents, are a violation of an individual’s constitutional rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression and association, and equal protection under the law, as well as the due process right to raise one’s children without undue interference from the government.
Several urban curfew laws have been tested in court. In 1991, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged Dallas, Texas’ curfew law. The US Supreme Court let the Dallas law stand on the grounds that it allows several exceptions for an underage person to break the curfew, such as coming home from work or carrying a note from their parents. Many cities now use the Dallas stature as a model for their curfew laws.
Still, the ACLU and others have been successful in striking down curfews in a number of cities. Rochester, New York provides a good example. Rochester enacted a night time curfew in 2007. In 2009, the New York Court of Appeals deemed it unconstitutional.
After finding that the curfew unconstitutionally infringes upon the free speech rights of youth, the judges wrote in their decision, “We also conclude that the curfew imposes an unconstitutional burden on a parent’s substantive due process rights. The city asserts that the ordinance promotes ‘parental supervision' of minors… But the curfew fails to offer parents enough flexibility or autonomy in supervising their children.”
The judges also wrote, “Further, we conclude that the crime statistics produced by the defendants do not support the objectives of Rochester’s nocturnal curfew. Although the statistics show that minors are suspects and victims in roughly 10 per cent of violent crimes committed between curfew hours… what they really highlight is that minors are far more likely to commit or be victims of crime outside curfew hours and that it is adults, rather than the minors, who commit and are victims of the vast majority of violent crime 83.6 pe rcent and 87.8 per cent respectively during curfew hours.”
Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy reacted harshly to the court’s ruling: “Unfortunately, this decision takes away our capacity to use the curfew as a common sense public safety tool.” The New York Civil Liberties Union responded by saying, “Improving public safety is a laudable goal. And there are ways to accomplish it that don’t involve infringing on the Constitution.”
Successful crime prevention
While the effectiveness and constitutionality of curfews will continue to be studied and debated in universities, courts, and City Halls, what seems clear is that, at best, a curfew is a tool to identify a problem, not a solution.
Cities with the most effective curfews, such as Minneapolis, Minnesota, do not deliver merely punitive consequences to children, but connect them to counseling, social, and recreational programs. They offer mentoring and positive adult role models and leadership in schools and neighborhoods. They establish good communications between police, parents, schools, social agencies, and youth. Curfews, in other words, are one part of a comprehensive safety net for children and families.
As Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybek explains, “We are all responsible for the kids in our community.”
Police in Highland Village, TX, questions youth during curfew hours
Also by Tony Favro
America prefers to punish rather than to provide care
An African-America boy born in the US in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime. A Latino boy has a 1 in 6 chance. These statistics are from a recently released report America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline by the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization that encourages preventive investment in youth and families before problems occur. The report blames America’s disproportionate investment in punishment rather than prevention for trapping many children in a trajectory that leads to marginalized lives and imprisonment.
Speaking of at-risk youth in the US, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund, says, “We choose to punish and lock them up rather than take the necessary more cost-effective steps to prevent and intervene early to ensure… they reach successful adulthood.”
The risks for youth
Every day in the US:
2,383 children are confirmed as abused or neglected
2,411 babies are born into poverty
2,494 babies are born to mothers who are not high school graduates
4,017 babies are born to unmarried mothers
4,302 children are arrested More