Are Curfew Laws Causing More Harm Than Good?
Gun violence and the public’s distrust of the law enforcers are complicated societal issues that can’t be solved immediately despite it being a priority of the government. To resolve these problems, a particular newspaper suggests a simple change in policy that can address both without actually causing any monetary expenditure from the state.
They suggest reconsidering current juvenile curfew laws. Economist categorized crime prevention strategies into two types: by increasing the chances of capture and punishment and incapacitation of possible offenders. The rationale behind juvenile curfews is through incapacitation thus reducing the incidence of crime. When society requires the juveniles to go home early, hoping to give them less opportunity to get into trouble. In the United States, juvenile curfews are frequent and often implemented strictly primarily in major cities. The curfew is often applicable to individuals aged under 18 and punishment is usually involving fine. Underage curfews are controversial and a debatable topic despite its ubiquitousness. Many argue that the police have prejudices and disproportionately targets minorities when enforcing this law. Also, the curfew further strains that tense relationships between communities and law enforcers while policymakers reason out that if curfews make the streets safer maybe it’s worth the repercussion.
A famous urban theorist, Jane Jacobs, wrote in 1961 that “a well-used street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted street is apt to be unsafe.” This emphasizes one problem with curfews since it is encouraging people and not merely the juveniles but also their caregivers, parents and older siblings to go home early; thus clearing the streets of witnesses and bystanders. In general, the mere presence of a good number of individuals on the road is a deterrent to crimes by itself. It is possible then that by implementing curfews; we are creating a less safe community. The research was done on the effects of juvenile limits on gun violence in Washington, D.C where curfew are at midnight on July 1st and 11:00 pm on September 1st onwards. The data shows that there is an increase of gunshot incidence after the curfew hours which only proves the belief of Jacobs that having people on the streets is a powerful deterrent thus making the juvenile curfew policies counterproductive.
Another study was done on the effects of juvenile curfew implementation on local arrest rates. It revealed that when a curfew goes into effect, the arrest rates go down in both juvenile and non-juvenile cases. At first glance, it may sound like a good thing; however, some anti-curfew experts argue that arrest rates don’t mean lower crime rates. It can mean that law enforcement agencies have devoted their resources to the implementation of the curfew rather than investigating crimes. Also, arrest rates might even fall if the community is not cooperative with the law enforcement investigation which is most likely to happen when they feel that they are harassed and judged.
Juvenile curfews can most likely decrease the incidence of minor types of crimes such vandalism that is unrelated to gun violence however when it comes to gun violence, juvenile curfews creates an unfavorable effect. It is best for policymakers to review their regulations and maybe look for other ways to handle gun violence.