The Juvenile Curfew Debate


            In response to some waves of increasing juvenile crimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, majority of communities across United States decided to implement or rather started to enforce the curfew statutes that were already in existence within books. In the communities where there were age-based curfews, violation constituted status offence that was punishable by law. Some national figures such as President Bill Clinton embraced the curfews, positing that they were very viable approach to tacking the pronounced problem of crimes by juveniles (Yeide, 2009, p. 2). Patrick Klin (2010), while exploring on the impact of curfews observed that in the early 1990s, juvenile curfews became somewhat popular strategies for combating of juvenile delinquency. According to a survey in 1996 by Ruefle and Reynolds, it was identified that in 146 out of the 200 United States cities that had a population of over 100,000, curfews for juveniles were already in books, and about 110 of the cities had either revised or enacted them between 1990 and 1995. Subsequent studies in 1997 by United States Conference of Mayors observed that 80 percent of the cities that had a population of over 30,000 had juvenile curfew ordinance.            

            Writing for U.S. Department of Justice within the office of Justice Program, Martha Yeide observed that the curfew laws might vary depending on the specified hours, the region that is affected by the law as well as the age group that is subject to the law. In majority of jurisdictions, the minors are required to be within their home compounds generally between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., even though the times may vary depending on whether it is during the schools holidays or not and also depending on the day of the week, whether a weekday or weekend. Most curfews include some special exceptions for the juveniles traveling to or from specified events such as church, school, work, civic-sponsored activity, or while responding to an emergency (Yeide, 2009, p. 2).

For Juvenile Curfews

            Siegel and Welsh (2010, p. 21) have observed that one of the most effective ways of preventing or reducing juveniles from indulging in delinquent activities is by establishing curfews that limit the odd hours that they have providing them with enough opportunities to strategize and to implement some criminal activities. Even though the first curfew was established back in 1880s in Omaha, Nebraska, it was deemed effective in realizing the desired objective thus today, more than five-hundred cities, which include 78 cities, which have a population of almost 200,000, in United States have established the law to govern the juveniles within these cities. This curfew prohibits all minors who are under eighteen years from being within streets after 11:00 p.m. at weekdays and past midnight during the weekends. Moreover, about a hundred of these cities have day-time curfew that is designed in the endeavor to keep children from escaping schools and being in streets (Siegel & Welsh, 2010, p. 21).

Thus having such curfews play a very significant role in preventing possible school drop out. Often, when children intend to dropout from school, they endeavor at making it a secret thus instead remaining at home or going to school, the go to the streets and wait until time to go home arrives so that they will pretend as having come from school. However, with such curfews, the minors have no otherwise than to go to school or remain at home.

            According to a study by Cline (2010) on the impact of juvenile curfew in reduction of crime in the society, it was observed that enactment of curfew laws play a significant role in reduction of crime rate committed by the youths. The results of the study observed “The estimated average reduction in property crime arrests over the 3 years following enactment is 9%, while the average effect over the entire 7 year sample period is 12%” (Cline, 2010, p. 19).

            Employment of juvenile curfews could play a very significant role in protecting the vulnerable children. Although responsible parents do not have a tendency of releasing their children in the streets with no one to guide them, however, not all parents qualify as responsible parents, thus their children become vulnerable to both accidents and crimes, and thus are likely to fall into some bad habits. With the enactment of juvenile curfew laws, parents are likely to control their children from being on streets, as the parents might suffer the consequences of paying the penalties derived from violation of the law (Endersby, 2009, para. 3).

            Endersby (2009, para. 4) has observed that often, minors have no good reason of being in streets alone without being accompanied by their parents, older brothers or guardians at late hours of the night. Often, most of these children do this against their parents will, thus they either sneak out or just decide to disobey their parents who seldom disciplines them. Thus, the enactment of the curfew law shall be helpful to parents in controlling the behaviors of their children: In fear being against the law and facing the consequent repercussions, they are likely to stay within their homes thus cultivating good morals among the juvenile. He has further observed that establishment of juvenile curfew is a form of non-tolerance policing, which shows that communities are not ready to allow development of lawlessness atmosphere within their surroundings. This idea of zero-tolerance is derived from a theory that posits that if low-level crimes, which include graffiti spraying, drug dealing and window breaking (all of which are common among juveniles) are not acted against effectively and swiftly by the law enforcers, then a laissez-faire environment is created that allows breeding and flourishing of major crimes, which will eventually make it even harder to maintain law and order in the society. Enactment of child curfew could help the police in establishment of a zero-tolerance climate, and thus facilitating the creation of an environment that is safe for all (Endersby (2009, para. 4-5).

            Even though most of the other approaches and schemes that have been established for reduction of crimes among the juvenile are desirable, they would be more effective in realizing the desired objective in conjunction with curfews. In a situation where almost an entire community has its juvenile becoming lawless, it would be relatively challenging to establish some rules that would maintain law and order; in the absence of curfews, law enforcers are bound to be overwhelmed by the youths in question. According to Endersby (2009), a curfew removes the law abiding juveniles from the street, thus leaving the law enforcers to deal with the lawbreakers who roamer the streets. Curfews are best applied in regions where crime rates have exceeded the average and should last for as long as the crime rates are high, soonest they recess, the curfews should be removed to allow the youths to enjoy their freedom just like any other citizen.

Against Juvenile Curfews

            According to the study by Siegel and Welsh (2010, p. 21), every year, approximately 60,000 youths become arrested per annum for violation of the curfew laws. These numbers are considered as responsible for decade-long increase of the offender population within juvenile courts. However, there is yet enough evidence to that the curfews have had significant impact upon the reduction of crimes committed by the young people. While various surveys conducted have showed that the police are in favor of the juvenile curfews as effective tools in controlling vandalism, nighttime burglary, auto theft, and graffiti, empirical researches such as those by the national survey have found out that there is no evidence of decrease of juvenile crimes with the increase of juvenile arrests.

Moreover, some studies have observed that with the increase of arrests of the juveniles due to violation of the curfews; have also increased victimization of the youths even during the non-curfew hours. Such findings thus indicate that as opposed to suppressing of juvenile delinquency, curfews shift the time when crimes are committed from the curfew hours to non-curfew hours, thus are ineffective in realizing the desired objective; minimize crimes in the society by the juveniles (Siegel & Welsh, 2010, p. 21).   

            One of the primary grounds for criticism of the curfew laws is their contravention of the constitution; they are deemed unconstitutional. The arguments raised posit that “the curfews’ violation of the following rights: freedom of speech, equal protection and due process, freedom of movement, and the right of parents to rear their children” (Yeide, 2009, p. 3). Courts have by far held up rights of jurisdiction in imposing such laws, upon meeting specified legal criteria, jurisdiction provides data that support ordinance tailored to realize safety need.

According to a number of reviews conducted by Yeide (2009, p. 3), curfew appear to present some opportunities of catalyzing families from being involved. Some comments that have been made by those who advocate for curfews have made it crystal clear that there is a connection between parental accountability and curfew laws. The connection was expressed as early as 1896 when John Townsend posited that “The curfew ordinance places responsibility where it belongs, on the parents” (Townsend, 1896, 725, as it has been quoted within the works of Adams (2003). When in 2006 New haven wanted to implement the curfew, Joyce Chen Alderwoman cautioned them that the only possible approach to averting the prevalence of juvenile delinquency is through getting parents involved as noted in the works of Bass (2006). Endersby (2009) observed that juvenile curfews entail infringement of parents’ rights to up bring their children, as they deem desirable, shared similar sentiments. He argued that simply because one does not like the approach employed by some parents in treating their children should not interpret to intervention that stops them.

In India, the curfew laws were challenged on the ground that they interfered with the law that was providing parents with the freedom of bringing up their children as they deemed appropriate as long as it is within the legal requirements (Yeide, 2009, p. 3). Similar sentiments were shared by Endersby (2009, para. 3). Endersby posited that juvenile curfews tend to violate individuals’ rights and liberties. The law provides every human being, including the minors, freedom of assembly and movement, which are directly undermined by the curfews. The curfew criminalizes the very presence of the youth in public places, which is a direct contravention of the law. Such an endeavor reverses presumption of the innocence, through an assumption that all youthful people are potential violators of the law. Moreover, such laws subjects all youths to blanket discrimination on age basis despite the very fact that just some few young people have ever been involved in a criminal offence.


            With the widespread and increase of the number of crimes that are committed by young people, various stakeholders have deemed it appropriate to establish juvenile curfews that restrict the youths to the hours that they should not be on the streets. However, such a move has raised heated debate among diversified stakeholders, as some support it arguing that it amounts to reduction of juvenile crimes and the opposite group opposing by arguing that there is no evidence that juvenile curfews lead to reduced crimes  or that they amount to violation of human rights and freedoms such as freedom of assembly and freedom of movement. However, some scholars have presented enough reasons accompanied by statistical facts defending their position that juvenile curfews reduce the number of crimes that are committed by the young people. There is a need of further studies to establish solid fact on the role of curfews in reduction of crimes in the society, thus providing various stakeholders such as policy makers and law enforcers with tangible evidence on the subject matter.


Adams, K. (2003). The Effectiveness of Juvenile Curfews at Crime Prevention. Annals 587, pp. 136–59. 

Bass, P. (2006). New Haven Eyes Youth Curfew. New Haven Independent. Retrieved on November 18, 2011 from:

Endersby, A. (2009). Child Curfews: International debate education association. Retrieved on November 18, 2011 from:

Kilne, P. (2010). The Impact of Juvenile Curfew Laws. Retrieved on November 18, 2011 from:

Ruefle, W., & Reynolds, K. (1996). Keep Them At Home: Juvenile Curfew Ordinances in 200 American Cities. American Journal of Police, 15(1), pp. 63-84.

Siegel, W. (2009). Juvenile delinquency: The core. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

U.S. Conference of Mayors. (1997). A Status Report on Youth Curfews in America's Cities.

Yeide, M. (2009). Curfew Violation Literature Review. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, pp. 1-6.