Before deciding what is right for your teen and your community, take a look at the facts about teenagers' curfews. This is often a topic of debate among teens and their parents. Many people support imposing a curfew for teenagers, believing that this will create a reduction in juvenile crime and victimization. Others feel that it is a violation of teenagers' civil rights to impose a curfew.
Multiple court cases have taken on the issue of teen curfews with varying results.
Bykofsky v. Borough of Middletown
In 1975, the very first case to take up the issue of juvenile court cases, Bykofsky v. Borough of Middletown, appeared before the court. Parents argued that the curfew in Middletown, Pennsylvania violated first and fourteenth amendment rights. The court decided that preserving the safety of the teenagers outweighed the violation of freedoms.
Qutb v. Strauss
Qutb v. Strauss marked one of the first court cases to deal with the issue of juvenile curfews. In 1991, a few parents asked for a temporary restraining order against the juvenile curfew ordinance in Dallas, which did not allow teens under age 18 to be in public places from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. After the city made a few changes to the specifics of the ordinance, the court upheld it.
Hodgkins v. Peterson
In 1999, three teens were arrested for violating curfew in Indianapolis. One of the teen's parents filed a lawsuit arguing that the curfew violated first amendment rights of minors. In Hodgkins v. Peterson, the court struck down the curfew and set limitations for all curfew laws that would be introduced within the state of Indiana.
Ramos v. Town of Vernon
In 2003, the ACLU praised the courts for overturning a juvenile curfew ordinance in Vernon, Connecticut. The ordinance banned teenagers under 18 from being out after 11 p.m. on school nights and midnights on weekends in an effort to curb crime in the town. Plaintiffs in the case of Ramos v. Town of Vernon argued that the ordinance violated the first, fourth and fourteenth amendment rights of minors.
Studies on Curfews
City Mayors Foundation
According to the City Mayors Foundation, in 2009 over 500 U.S. cities had curfews in place, but little is known about the effectiveness of the curfews. The foundation did outline the traits of one effective curfew program in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which combined punitive consequences with mentoring, adult role models and stronger lines of communication between all parties involved.
American Academy of Political and Social Science
The Effectiveness of Juvenile Curfews at Crime Prevention, a study completed by Kenneth Adams of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, showed that there is more to effectively fighting juvenile crime than just arresting kids and fining their parents. Community involvement is the key to solving this issue. The study argued that a curfew will only act as a tool to identify a problem; laws and law enforcement are not the only solutions.
Western Criminology Review
The Analysis of Curfew Enforcement and Juvenile Crime in California, a 1999 study that appeared in the Western Criminology Review, concludes, "Based on the current evidence, a crime reduction strategy founded solely on law enforcement intervention has little effect, suggesting that solutions are more complex and multifaceted." However, mayors surveyed as part of the study argued that the curfews did reduce crime in their citities, even when the research did not support it.
U.S. Conference of Mayors
The U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed mayors in 347 cities with curfews and found that 88 percent of the cities found that curfews made their streets safer for residents. While only 72 of the 347 cities had daytime curfews, 100 percent of those cities showed a decrease in truancy and daytime crime. Gang-related problems also dropped in cities with curfews; 83 percent cited a decrease in gang activity.
Resources About Teenagers' Curfews
There is a huge amount of information on the web regarding the issue of teenage curfew laws. You may wish to research both sides of the issue before voting on a curfew law, or before you argue your position at the next city council meeting.
- Youth Outreach offers an activity on curfews for teachers and parents to use to open up discussion with teenagers.
- The National Youth Rights Association has a collection of studies on teenage curfews for you to download and review.
- Juggle.com's debates on curfews feature facts and opinions from multiple contributors.
- The book Are Teen Curfews Effective? by Roman Espejo provides an overview of the issue.
Forming an Opinion on Curfews
Since the research on curfews is largely inconclusive, you must form your own opinion about curfews. Forming that opinion will involve weighing whether the safety and lower crime rates that proponents of curfews promote outweighs the violation of constitutional rights that those against curfews seek to defend.