More than a dozen cities and counties in Maryland and around the country have either introduced or begun enforcing juvenile curfews in 2023 even though there is little evidence to show that these measures have a positive effect. Baltimore reintroduced its controversial curfew on Memorial Day after two teenagers were shot in the city. Lawmakers in Texas may have paid more attention to the data pertaining to curfews as they recently passed a bill banning juvenile curfews that will go into effect in September.
Common sense and research
Academics and criminal justice reform advocates say the politicians who introduce juvenile curfews and the members of the public who support them are motivated by a common-sense approach that is belied by research. That research clearly shows that curfews do little to prevent crime because juvenile offenses are far more likely to be committed in the afternoon than in the evening. Curfews became more common in the 1990s when politicians and the media linked a surge in crime to juvenile “superpredators,” and the public demanded a get-tough approach.
Little to no effect on crime
Several police departments have stopped enforcing curfews because they waste resources that could be put to better use. When Baltimore introduced what was widely seen as the strictest juvenile curfew in the nation in 2014, arrests of teenagers soared even while overall arrests in the city declined. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union claim that curfews violate the U.S. Constitution and unfairly target Black and Latino teenagers. When a curfew was introduced in Minneapolis, 60% of the teenagers arrested were Black.
Juvenile curfews are proposed and supported by politicians who mean well and want to demonstrate to their constituents that they take crime seriously and want to do something about it. Curfews seem to make sense, but the research suggests they do more harm than good. If lawmakers wish to reduce juvenile crime and keep teenagers out of the criminal justice system, they should start listening to experts instead of their instincts.