Curfews Can Reduce Crime

Education Feature
Curfews Can Reduce Crime
By Robert Seith
CWK Senior Producer

“Shoot, everything happens real late at night. I mean, it does.”
-Michael, a 17-year-old, explaining why he thinks curfews work to reduce teenage crime-

When asked what he would think was going on if he saw a crowd of teenagers hanging out late at night, 17-year-old Simon says, “I assume that there probably is a lot of drug use, and alcohol consumption…”

And then, he adds, “Trespassing, vandalism, mailboxes might get broken.”

When the sun goes down, are teenagers more likely to get into trouble?

“Shoot, everything happens real late at night. I mean, it does,” confirms 17-year-old Michael.

17-year-old Rochelle adds, “Well that’s kind of a stereotype, but they might be the type that are into bad things.”

The stereotype now comes with hard statistics. In a new survey by the National League of Cities, 97 percent of cities and towns with nighttime curfews report a drop in juvenile crime.

“Not only are we worried about the fact that they may commit a crime while they’re out, but the fact that they may also be victimized while they’re out,” says Police Spokesman Officer Chris Lagerbloom.

But experts say curfews should reflect the views of the community…. for example: kids with night jobs, or involved in extracurricular activities, or with a note from their parents… they could be exempt.

“Have specific exceptions to the rule,” suggests civic leader Debbie Gibson, “…if you have parental permission to be out at that time, then you would not fall under this category, if you’re coming home from a date… I mean you can kind of customize it to your own community.”

Still…. most kids won’t like it.

“I hate being home, hate having to be at a certain place at a certain time…don’t like it at all,” confirms Michael.

But parents can explain to their children that a citywide curfew for all kids is better than a parental curfew that only applies to them.

“If everyone else had to go at the same time I did, and I knew everyone else wasn’t out having fun… I’d be like, ‘alright, this is fine,’” says Michael.


By Tom Atwood
CWK Network

Curfews have always been a controversial issue between parents and children. Now the increasing use of curfews by towns and cities—to fight juvenile crime—is generating controversy nationwide. The National League of Cities recently polled 800 cities that have implemented curfews. The survey, conducted by Insta-Poll, shows that curfews are ”cost-effective and useful,” and that “a growing number of city officials have confidence in curfews as an effective strategy to help curb gang violence.” However, the American Civil Liberties Union opposes curfews for everyone, including teenagers, because “these laws criminalize normal and otherwise lawful behavior—such as standing on a street corner—and are unconstitutionally vague and broad.”

Listed below are some highlights from the National League of Cities curfew survey. Of the 800 cities polled:

  • 97% say curfews are effective in combating juvenile crime.

  • 96% say curfews are effective in fighting truancy.

  • 88% say curfews are effective in reducing gang violence.

  • 56% reported drops in violent crime within one year of implementing a nighttime curfew.

  • 55% reported a drop in gang activity.

  • 88% reported no problems implementing their curfew.

  • 89% said there were no significant new costs for their police departments.

More than half the cities polled (52%) had curfews of 11p.m. during the week for children under 18. The curfews were extended one hour to midnight on the weekends by 55% of the surveyed cities. Daytime curfews are also being implemented in some cities. Thirty-five percent cited “school hours” as the hours of their daytime curfews. Another 21% reported 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. as their hours of enforcement.

Opposing View

The ACLU has been involved in legal battles against various municipal curfew laws. The organization believes that curfews, “like other tough-sounding anti-crime strategies, are not solutions. They divert the public’s attention from real crime prevention programs and mask the underlying causes of crime. What curfews really mean,” the ACLU says, “ is that law abiding citizens will be stopped and questioned for no reason. And inevitably, broad laws like these produce uneven or discriminatory enforcement—studies have found that curfew restrictions are disproportionately enforced in minority communities.”

What Parents Can Do

According to Girls and Boys Town, curfews set by parents can teach valuable lessons to teenagers. Curfews can help parents and children develop a “trusting relationship.” When a teenager comes home on time, parents tend to trust the teen more and consider him or her more responsible. Some suggestions regarding curfews (from Girls and Boys Town)

  • Before your teens go out, find out where they are going, what they’ll be doing, and who’s driving, and set up a clear time for when they need to be home.
  • Never let your teens go to parties or activities that don’t have adequate adult supervision.
  • Check on your teens once in a while. Make a big deal out it if they are where they’re supposed to be. Restrict their activities for a while if they’re not where they told you they would be.
  • Within reason (generally between midnight and 1:00 a.m.) extend your teens’ curfew if they’ve demonstrated they can be trusted.
  • Establish a pattern of talking with your teens each night after they come home. It’s worth the loss of sleep.
  • Frequently, talk with the parents of your teens’ friends.

National League of Cities
American Civil Liberties Union
Girls and Boys Town



Driving Curfew Reduces Teen Accidents

Education Feature
Driving Curfew Reduces Teen Accidents
By Robert Seith
CWK Senior Producer

“Typical Friday night, you always see drag racing, speeding. Or, ‘oh, we’ll jump the gun here’ or ‘we’ll run this red light here.’”
-Ed, Age 17.-

Almost every Friday night, 17-year-old Ed will take his car out to a stretch of road popular with teens. He says he, his friends, and a lot of teenagers out here like to push their cars to the limit when the sun goes down.

“Typical Friday night,” Ed says, “you always see drag racing, speeding…or ‘oh, we’ll jump the gun here’ or ‘we’ll run this red light here.’”

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that in North Carolina, a 9 PM curfew for 16-year-old drivers cut their accidents by 43%. That same decrease across America would save thousands of lives.

Experts say young drivers are simply more dangerous at night. “It’s a time of much greater excitement,” explains psychiatrist Dr. John Lochridge. “It’s a time of challenge. Parents need to be ready for the fact that their kids are not going to be able to handle driving in as mature a way as they would in the daytime.”

But Lochridge says a curfew has a double edge. It may save lives, but when you stop kids from driving at night, “that prevents the kind of trail and error learning they really need to learn.”

Still, curfews are valuable, he says. If your state doesn’t have one, parents should enact their own, based on their teenager’s behavior.

“Over time, if you show us you have good decision making and maturity at the wheel, then we will continue to give you later and later curfews and better driving privileges and your life will be good,” says Lochridge.

16-year-old Armando, who just got his license recently, says that kind of approach sounds fair.

“Yea, I’d say that was fair, you know…and I’d probably you know, be a little safer so I wouldn’t get in trouble. I’d like try to avoid speeding and what not, ‘cause I wouldn’t want to have a curfew, you know?”


By Tom Atwood
CWK Network

It makes sense that restricting teen driving at night would save lives, but now a new study proves it. The study, published in the October 3, 2001 issue of the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA), examines teen drivers in North Carolina. In 1997, the state enacted a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system. Among other restrictions, the GDL system limits unsupervised driving to daylight hours only. Since the GDL went into effect:

  • Nighttime crashes involving 16-year-old declined 43%.
  • Fatal crashes declined 57%.
  • Minor crashes declined 23%.
  • Daytime crashes declined 20%.
What Parents Need To Know

How does a graduated driver licensing system work? According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, GDL allows young drivers to mature and develop their driving skills as they progress through 3 stages of licensing. The NHTSA lists these stages and their core components:

Stage 1—Learner’s Permit

  • A licensed parent, guardian or adult must supervise all driving.
  • Permit holder must complete basic driver education including behind-the-wheel training.
  • Minimum holding period of six months.
  • Permit is visually distinctive from other driver licenses.

Stage 2—Intermediate License

  • Successfully complete the learner’s permit stage.
  • Allows for unsupervised driving during daylight hours.
  • Restricted nighttime hours of driving unless supervised by a licensed adult at least 21-years-old.

Stage 3—Full License

  • Successfully complete the intermediate license stage.
  • Allows for unlimited driving privileges.

In addition, during the first two stages:

  • All occupants must wear seat belts.
  • Zero alcohol tolerance for those under age 21.
  • Permit is cancelled if applicant is convicted of any alcohol-related offense.
  • Applicant must remain free of at-fault crashes and convictions for least 6 to 12 consecutive months in order to move to the next stage.

The NHTSA also says that limitations on carrying teenage passengers should be an important component in any graduated licensing system.

What Parents Can Do

In addition to placing limits on nighttime driving, there are other things parents can do to help keep teen drivers safe. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommends the following:

  • Restrict passengers. Teen passengers in a vehicle can easily distract a beginning driver. 62% of teen passenger deaths occur in crashes with a teen driver. While night driving with passengers is particularly lethal, many fatal crashes with teen passengers occur during the day. The best policy is to restrict teen passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time.
  • Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teenager learn how to drive.
  • Remember you are a role model. New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving yourself.
  • Require safety belt use. Remember that belt use is lower among teenagers than older people. Insist on belts at all times.
  • Prohibit driving after drinking. Make it clear that it’s illegal and highly dangerous for a teenager to drive after drinking. Even small amounts of alcohol are impairing for teens.
  • Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection if they do crash. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles—the smaller ones, especially, are prone to roll over.

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
Journal of The American Medical Association
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles