Many cities have imposed youth curfews in recent years. A 1995 survey by The U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 272 cities, 70 percent of those surveyed, had a nighttime curfew. Fifty-seven percent of these cities considered their curfew effective.
Since that survey was done the trend toward establishing curfewsboth nighttime and daytimehas continued and more is known about their impact. This report updates the 1995 survey and provides additional information on the effectiveness of those curfews.
The 1997 survey gathered information from 347 cities with a population over 30,000. Mayors and city officials were asked for information on:
Among the findings of the survey:
Four out of five of the survey cities (276) have a nighttime youth curfew. Of these cities, 26 percent (76) also have a daytime curfew. Click here for a list of cities which have curfews.
Nine out of 10 of the cities (247) said that enforcing a curfew is a good use of a police officer's time. Many respondents felt that curfews represented a proactive way to combat youth violence. They saw curfews as a way to involve parents, as a deterrent to future crime, and as a way to keep juveniles from being victimized. In addition, they commented that a curfew gives the police probable cause to stop someone they think is suspicious. Examples of city comments:
Tulsa: There is generally no useful purpose for a juvenile to be out late at night. Enforcement of curfews serves to protect them from being victimized by the criminal element.
Charlotte: This is a good tool to protect children. Most parents didn't even know their children were outside the home.
Jacksonville (NC): It provides officers with "probable cause" to stop the youth.
Claremont: It frees up officers' time during the curfew hours to do other police work. Kids don't go out because they know they will get in trouble.
Anchorage: Parents are contacted each time a juvenile is picked up, often eliminating repeat occurrences.
St. Peters (MO): It assists in providing a method of controlling juveniles when adult supervision is lacking. Less time is spent by officers in getting them off the street than responding to problems they create.
Toledo: It provides officers an opportunity to intervene with potential issues before problems develop. Periodic sweeps remind the public about the law officer. Curfew enforcement has, in large part, become a part of routine enforcement.
Twenty-six cities (10 percent) did not feel that curfew enforcement is a good use of a police officer's time. They commented that police have higher priorities than chasing curfew breakers, and that there is too much paperwork involved, tying up a police officer's time when he or she should be using that time to pursue more serious offenders. Some suggested that random sweeps seem to be more effective in keeping offenders off balance, as they are never sure when the police will be around. Finally, several commented that there is nowhere to take the young people when they are picked up because many parents aren't home. Examples of city comments:
San Francisco: Offenses occur before curfew hours. Therefore, the curfew is ineffective.
Billings: There is no place to take the kids. Often the parents are not home.
Roanoke: There is no punishment for the law. The law is on the books but there is no punishment.
Freeport (IL): It ties up the police and keeps them "babysitting" all day long.
Richmond (CA): Curfews treat all youth as violators. It turns off good kids and is unfair to them.
Ninety-three percent of the survey cities (257) said that a nighttime curfew is a useful tool for police officers. The city officials commented that curfews help to reduce the incidence of juveniles becoming victims by preventing "gathering," which also means more calls for the police. They said that a curfew compels parents to be more responsible and gives them a specific reason to tell their children they cannot be out after a certain time, and they said that curfews are a good prevention tool, keeping the good kids good and keeping the at-risk kids from becoming victims or victimizers. Examples of city comments:
Orlando: Since we have had the curfew we have seen dramatic declines in youth-related crimes.
Murray (UT): Prevention is nine-tenths of the cure.
Fresno: Because of the curfew there is less gathering. Less gathering means fewer calls for police.
South Bend: Few first time violators are repeat offenders.
Maui: It compels parents to be responsible.
Nineteen cities said that a nighttime curfew was not a useful tool, explaining that it removes parental control as the city, in effect, becomes the parent. They also commented that more crime happens during non-curfew hours due to curfew enforcement. Examples of city comments:
Kauai: It causes more crime during non-curfew hours.
Richland (WA): All youth, not just delinquents, are affected by a curfew.
Wausau: We need to avoid harassment and need to avoid focussing on minorities or specific neighborhoods.
All of the 72 cities which have a daytime curfew report that it has cut down on truancy. They said that it reduces daytime burglary, holds parents accountable and keeps kids in school. Examples of city comments:
Columbus (OH): Seventeen hundred truants have been processed, less than seven percent have been re-fined (as repeat offenders).
Allentown: Since the inception of our daytime curfew, students know there are consequences to their actions. It has had a favorable impact on school attendance.
Torrance: It discourages truants' trips en masse to "hang-outs." With this curfew, students must stay at home or risk detention.
Philadelphia: Daytime curfew enforcement causes the minor to attend school, which can only benefit the minor.
Roswell: It cuts down on graffiti, vandalism and truancy. It keeps kids at home or in school where they are safe.
Eighty-eight percent (236) of the cities said that curfew enforcement helps to make streets safer for residents. The officials commented that there is less traffic late at night; residents feel safer; it is easier to find runaways; it is harder for criminals to hide from the police during curfew hours because there are fewer people to blend in with; graffiti and vandalism are reduced; and parents are helped to feel responsible. Examples of city comments:
Canton: Police find more runaways and missing juveniles, reducing the number of delinquencies.
Tulsa: The criminal element has to work harder to "hide" from cops.
Inglewood: It does, in fact, make it safer. There is less traffic at night.
Corpus Christi: The daytime curfew has cut down on the truancy problem considerably simply because school-aged kids observed wandering the streets or in locations away from school are easily detected, and they have come to know that.
Thirty-three cities (12 percent) said that curfews have no impact on street safety, commenting that it is people over 17 who create the more serious crimes, and that they do not always enforce the curfew due to lack of funds or lack of interest. Examples of city comments:
Memphis: Most evening crimes are committed by adults.
Chillicothe (MO): Those over 17 are still out causing most of the trouble.
Tallahassee: Several studies have indicated that curfews displace crime to other times of the day without having any real impact over the long run.
Eighty-three percent (222) of the cities said that a curfew helps to curb gang violence. City officials believe it is a tool to reach "wanna-be" gang members and keep recruitment to a minimum; it prevents gang members from gathering; it gives the police a legal reason to contact individuals or the group; it tells kids their movements are being monitored and lessens gang activities during curfew hours. They also said that curfews help the police to identify gang members and come in contact with them at an earlier stage, help to curb young peoples' activities before they become more violent, and help the police to seize the guns and drugs of gang members, thus impairing their ability to fight. Finally, the curfew helps to educate parents to the signs of gang membership and activity. Examples of city comments:
Moline (IL): Gang activity stops after curfew hours begin.
Dearborn: It curbs activities before they get to a more violent level.
Shaker Heights: If you address inappropriate behavior, you will minimize the opportunity for it to escalate into violence. In other words, if you catch youths early it is more likely they can become valuable members of society.
Napa: I have never seen a gang member who wasn't a truant first. Curbing truancy curbs gang violence.
Houston: We have had an increase in drug and weapons seizures from gangs. Seizing these things lowers gangs' ability to fight.
Seventeen percent (46) of the cities said that curfews had no impact on gang-related activities. These cities said that most hardcore gang member do not pay attention to curfews; most gang activities occur before curfews go into effect; and gangs are not afraid of curfew laws because they know there will be no punishment. Examples of city comments:
Ogden: Curfews do little to curb activities of hardcore gang members.
Rochester (MN): Gangs aren't afraid of curfews because the punishment is little or nothing.
Memphis: Most gang activities happen before curfew hours.
Fifty-six percent (154) of the survey cities have had a youth curfew in effect for 10 years or less. Officials in 53 percent of these cities have had a decrease in juvenile crime which they attribute to the curfew. Eleven percent have seen the number of juvenile crimes stay the same; 10 percent have had an increase in juvenile-related crimes. Because most of the remaining cities have had curfews in effect for a short time, no data on the impact on juvenile crime was available.
Twenty-six cities with a nighttime curfew only were able to provide data on the percent reduction in juvenile crime. Juvenile crime was reduced by an average of 21 percent in these cities, ranging from a two percent decrease in Charlotte, three percent in Waterloo, five percent in Bloomington (IL) and Fort Worth and seven percent in Kileen (TX) to a 40 percent reduction in Inglewood and Idaho Falls, 42 percent in San Jose and 50 percent in Orlando.
Twenty-two cities with both a nighttime and daytime curfew were able to provide data on the percent reduction in juvenile crime, which was reduced by an average of 21 percent in these cities. The percent reduction ranged from two percent in Richmond (GA), five percent in Lombard (IL) and eight percent in Fairfield (CA) to 50 percent in Hayward and 70 percent in Charleston (SC).
Six cities reported that juvenile crime increased after their curfew was introduced, by an average of 14.5 percent across these cities. The increases ranged from three percent in Billings and Tulsa and 10 percent in St. Charles to 25 percent in Grand Forks and 26 percent in Fargo. It should be noted that many cities reported that when they initially implemented the curfew or began to rigorously enforce an existing curfew, the number of crimes increased for a period of six months to a year. Following this, however, they saw a significant decline in juvenile crime.
Twenty-three percent (61) of the cities said there were increased costs related to curfew enforcement. These costs related primarily to increased police officer time and detention centers. Examples of city comments:
Chandler (AZ): There was an increase in costs in paperwork, court appearances and fees and officers' time spent processing and convicting the youth.
San Jose: We had to add $1 million in new police payroll to enforce our curfew.
Shreveport: We received a grant from the federal government to help defray the costs of a detention center, but the federal funds decrease each year, and after four years the city will have to pay all of the costs.
Upland (CA): Our gang task force has caused an increase in costs.
New Orleans: There have been cost increases associated with overtime for police in order to enforce the curfew properly.
Cleveland: The increase in enforcement of the curfew has caused more costs for police to appear in court.
Twenty-three percent (62) also reported problems in implementing their curfew. These problems include concerns about violating young peoples' rights or targeting minorities, parental opposition, and officials within the criminal justice system not taking the curfew seriously. Examples of city comments:
Denver: In one of our middle class neighborhoods it was proposed that we put up a detention center, and this met with strenuous opposition.
Los Angeles: The problem is convincing liberal politicians that it doesn't violate kids' rights and convincing police officers that it is productive.
Chicago: The problem is getting judges to take curfew cases seriously.
Cincinnati: The curfew laws need to be monitored to make sure that African-Americans aren't targeted. You have to make sure you are trying to keep it fair and legal.
Plano: A small segment of our population feel it is the parents' responsibility to say when a child should be indoors.
Buena Park: Several home schooling groups challenged it as being unfair to their children.
Five percent (14) of the cities said there have been constitutional challenges either to the curfew itself or to its wording. Those cities with a challenge are Allentown, Bellingham, Dallas, El Cajon, Escondido, Lompoc, North Miami Beach, Orlando, Philadelphia, Poway (CA), Santa Ana, Tulsa, Wenatchee (WA) and West Covina. In two additional citiesFort Lauderdale and Rio Rancho (NM)a challenge to the curfew has been threatened.
For the 276 cities with curfews:
Survey Cities Which Have A Curfew
The 276 survey cities with a curfew are listed below. Those with an * have both a daytime and a nighttime curfew; the rest have a nighttime curfew only.
|ARKANSAS||Fort Smith||North Little Rock *||Pine Bluff *|
Buena Park *
El Cajon *
La Habra *
Long Beach *
Manhattan Beach *
San Jose *
Santa Barbara *
West Covina *
|CONNECTICUT||New Britain||West Haven|
|FLORIDA||Fort Lauderdale *
East Point *
|Elk Grove *
Park Ridge *
|New Orleans *||Shreveport|
St. Claire Shores
|Natchez *||Tupelo *|
|Jersey City *||Newark|
|NEW MEXICO||Rio Rancho *||Roswell *|
|NORTH DAKOTA||Fargo||Grand Forks|
Lima (Recently lost day)
|PUERTO RICO||Caguas||San Juan|
|RHODE ISLAND||North Providence||Pawtucket|
|SOUTH CAROLINA||Charleston||Columbia||Rock Hill|
|SOUTH DAKOTA||Rapid City|
Corpus Christi *
League City *
San Antonio *
|Salt Lake City||Sandy|
The 71 survey cities listed below do not have a youth curfew.
|Rancho Palos Verdes
San Luis Obispo
Port St. Lucie
|MICHIGAN||Port Huron||Rochester Hills|
|Fort Lee||West Orange|
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352