Under the Clinton Administration in the 90's, curfew laws were implemented in many cities and states all throughout the country. Want to guess why? To combat and prevent further “gang violence” and drugs on the street. Ultimately, to stop crime in neighborhoods.
To me, I think that most kids enjoy being outside and would rather interact with friends in-person than stay cooped up inside playing video games. There is always this notion that when it is summertime, more crime happens. We will get back to that later, there's a whole complexity to that.
However, there are many complications to the intention of having a curfew enforced on minors. Juveniles can be unhoused and not have a stable place to live at, difficulty to have safe streets in general as empty streets invite rather than stray away crime, and targeting youth of color compared to their white counterparts. The Clintons had called juveniles-at-risk “super-predators,” framing minors from vulnerable communities with criminal intention that would later place an array of harms on them.
The public absorbed this new approach and thought it was working. Law enforcement would go on patrol, and streets felt more of a dangerous zone at night than a place to continue neighborhood bonding past the sunset. Some places had even made their curfew period earlier, from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The extension of extreme curfew laws contributes to youth being brought into the criminal justice system, punishing children and youth for just being kids. Even being out 30 minutes later past the curfew can result into charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
The report stated that, “evidence suggests that juvenile curfews are ineffective at reducing crime and victimization. The average effect on juvenile crime during curfew hours was slightly positive — that is a slight increase in crime — and close to zero for crime during all hours. Similarly, juvenile victimization also appeared unaffected by the imposition of a curfew ordinance.” (The Marshall Project, 2018)
Law enforcement has had even more capability to make unnecessary stops and arrests on low-income neighborhoods, especially when it is hard to identify young people if they are above or below the curfew ordinance's age requirement. Honestly, assuming the age of someone is not the best basis of enforcing a curfew policy. It pretty much makes the ordinance ineffective and has brought on traumatic experiences for many people including a youth's family.
Despite the exceptions of youth being with individuals 18 years or older or parents/guardians, a third space for youth is not easily accessibly in the United States. What I mean by that is a public setting where it's low-cost to free to be engaged with and meet your local community. This can be a library, school, parks, etc. Block parties can be a form of a third space located on the street, but with curfews, it made that much harder.
Some cities including the city of Austin in the state of Texas that had banned the curfew protocol from their local municipality due to the ineffective of the impact it would have on their constituents. With less negative interactions between law enforcement and the people as they quoted, it can sift off the political tension that has been arisen since 2020. Other cities have been taking away these policies for another reason: for police officers to focus more on serious crimes than checking if the curfew is being followed.
Here are the standard components of curfew-ordinance codes in California, including Kern, Tulare, and Fresno counties (some can differ on certain restrictions and exceptions):
"Curfew hours" means the period from 10:00 p.m. any evening of the week, until 5/6:00 a.m. the following day.
- It is unlawful for any minor to be present in any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the specific area (i.e. county of Kern, Fresno, or Tulare) during curfew hour.
- It is unlawful for any parent or guardian or a minor knowingly to permit, or by insufficient control to allow, the minor to be present in any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the City during curfew hours.
- Accompanied by the minor's parent or guardian, or by a responsible adult
- On an errand at the direction of the minor's parent or guardian, or the responsible adult, without any detour or stop
- In a motor vehicle involved in interstate travel
- Engaged in an employment activity, or going to or returning home from an employment activity, without any detour or stop
- Involved in an emergency
- On the sidewalk abutting the minor's residence
- Attending an official school, religious, or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the City of San Diego, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor
- Exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States Constitution
- Emancipated pursuant to law.
Organizations that advocate for children's rights have been in complete opposition of curfew ordinances. For example, the National Youth Rights Association provides their reasoning on abolishing curfews: juvenile curfews are a violation of young people's fundamental rights, curfews are ineffective at reducing crime, juvenile curfews punish non-criminal behavior,juvenile curfews don't target populations that commit the most crime and waste police resources, and juvenile curfews are often applied in a discriminatory fashion.
For more information, please visit their website here: Top Five Reasons to Abolish Curfews - NYRA (youthrights.org)
- Why Juvenile Curfews Don't Work | The Marshall Project
- 90688-0 JuvCurfewBull (ojp.gov)
- Baltimore Unrest and Calm After Curfew: A Brief History of Curfews | Time
- Juvenile Law (Truancy and Curfew) | Police | City of San Diego Official Website
- Austin Juvenile Curfew Ordinance One Pager (texasappleseed.org)
- 9.28.020. Curfew for minors—Exceptions—Definitions., Chapter 9.28. CURFEW FOR MINORS, Title 9. PUBLIC PEACE, MORALS AND WELFARE, Code of Ordinances, Kern County (elaws.us)
- Top Five Reasons to Abolish Curfews - NYRA (youthrights.org)