Youth Violence Interventions

Juvenile Curfews

Public curfews have been imposed periodically through the nation’s history. Most are targeted toward youth under 16 years of age, and extend from 11 PM to 6 AM on school days, and from midnight to 6 AM on non-school days. Usually, exceptions are made for juveniles escorted by an adult, travel to or from work, emergencies, school or church activities and other special circumstances. Violations generally result in a parental fine of $75 to $500 (LeBoef 1996).

Curfew ordinances must pass a two-pronged test to survive a constitutional challenge. Local jurisdictions must demonstrate that 1) there is a compelling state interest in imposing the curfew, and 2) that the ordinance is narrowly tailored to achieve its objective (enhancing public safety).

Communities enacting juvenile curfews have reported reductions in crime ranging from 10% to 27% during curfew hours. Most have relied on simple before-after comparisons that do not take into account other changes in the community that may have coincided with curfew effects. The impact of curfews on overall rates of juvenile violence is less clear. Analysis of juvenile crime data from South Carolina suggests that the per-hour rate of juvenile offending in the "after-school" hours of 2 to 6 PM may be four times greater than the rate of juvenile crime during late night "curfew" hours. However, large cities like Dallas report that the majority of violent juvenile crimes (rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and homicides) occur between 10 PM and 1 AM (LeBoef 1996). Much more must be known before we can confidently predict whether curfews are worth the financial and social cost.