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Effectiveness of Juvenile Curfews at Crime Prevention

NCJ Number
Annals of the American Academy Volume: 587 Issue: 1 Dated: May 2003 Pages: 136-159
Kenneth Adams
Date Published
May 2003
24 pages
After reviewing the history and current popularity of curfew laws intended to reduce juvenile crime, this paper assesses the effectiveness of these laws and offers plans for a more comprehensive evaluation of curfew laws.
Juvenile curfew laws restrict the presence of juveniles in public during specified hours on a continuing basis. Opponents of curfew laws doubt their effectiveness and charge that they violate important civil rights and inevitably result in discriminatory enforcement against minority youth. Curfew laws have increased in recent years because of public concern about juvenile crime and the general tendency of policymakers to address crime by increasing the number and severity of social control measures. Advocates of curfew laws believe that they enable the police to do what parents should be doing, i.e., ensuring that their young children are at home and under parental supervision in the late night and early morning hours. Further, identification of the children and youth who are out late at night implies that these are high-risk youth without effective parental supervision who may require intervention to prevent the escalation of antisocial behavior. An analysis of 10 empirical studies of the impact of curfew laws failed to support the argument that curfews reduce crime and criminal victimization. The studies consistently found no change in crime linked to curfews; however, the studies analyzed had weak to moderate rigorous designs. This report offers recommendations for a more comprehensive and well-designed program of research that will distinguish the effects of various types of curfew laws and the nature and style of their enforcement. 1 table, 9 notes, and 33 references