When it comes to passing community safety measures, few measures are as controversial a curfew. As with many political issues, proponents of either side may have a difficult time seeing the issue through the eyes of those holding the opposing viewpoint. Becoming familiar with the pros and cons of a curfew may serve to help facilitate rational discussion.
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Reduce Crimes Against Minors
Reducing crimes committed against minors is a popular argument for enacting a curfew. Violent crime is most likely to occur after dark. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, two-thirds of sexual assaults happen at night. Minors are considered less likely to be able to defend themselves, potentially putting them at risk if they are out unaccompanied after dark. By enacting a curfew, regions aim to keep minors out of danger.
Unnecessary Restriction of Freedom
Those opposed to curfew laws say curfews are an unnecessary restriction of freedom. Youth are criminalised by such laws simply for being outside of their houses. In effect, this makes the house function as a prison. Opponents of curfews state that youth are not really protected by these laws. In fact, a study conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice found that curfew laws did not lead to a reduction in the amount of youth victimised during any hours. Limiting the freedom of mobility of an entire subset of people based on incorrect assumptions, curfew opponents say, is unacceptable.
Reduce Crimes Committed by Minors
Under the cover of night, it is easier to commit crimes without being seen. Curfews aim to reduce the amount of crimes committed by minors by keeping them indoors and out of trouble during these hours. According to California's Legislative Analyst's Office, juveniles make up 26 per cent of all property crime arrests and 14 per cent of violent crime arrests. It isn't a far stretch to assume that statistics are similar in other regions. With numbers like those, curfew proponents feel the need to keep a close eye on young people.
Ineffective and Discriminatory
In spite of statistics on youth crime, curfew opponents say that curfew laws are ineffective and discriminatory. People who are likely to have criminal tendencies won't mind breaking one more law. The only people who are restricted are law-abiding youth, curfew opponents say. Additionally, a report based on statistics by the Federal Bureau of Investigation states that youth are most likely to commit violent acts between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.--times when curfew laws are not in effect. If this is the case, such laws do not prevent juvenile crimes. They merely allow age-based discrimination against a subset of the population.
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- Library Index: Victims of Crime - When And Where Does Violent Crime Happen?
- "The Washington Post"; Study: Curfew Not Protecting Children; Blacks are Cited Disproportionately; Nurith C. Aizenman; October 12, 2000; p M3.
- Legislative Analyst's Office: Juvenile Crime
- BNET: Study Reveals Most Juvenile Crimes Committed After School