TEENAGERS AND THE POLICE
Juvenile curfews have been imposed in the US to help parents control their children or, more frequently, to combat juvenile crime and prevent victimization. Many US states already have laws enabling local governments to introduce curfews. In a December 1995 survey of 1,000 cities with populations of more than 30,000, 70% of those that responded had a curfew ordinance in place.
The curfews themselves can vary. Most laws require minors to stay at home between 11pm and 6am; sometimes, there are exceptions in the summer or at weekends. Exemptions are granted for youths going to/from school or religious events. Some local governments also grant greater mobility to married youths, youths accompanied by an adult or those traveling with their parents' permission. Sometimes, there are greater restrictions on specific zones of the city: in Austin, the curfew begins at 10 p.m. in the nightclub district, and elsewhere at 11:30 p.m.
Sanctions can take the form of fines ($50-$500), charges of misdemeanor (offenders are taken to court), participation in diversion programs (offenders take part in work programs) or sanctions against parents.
Critics claim that there is not enough empirical evidence to indicate that curfews are as efficient as local authorities are made to believe. In fact, some research shows that, while curfews might indeed help to reduce crime levels during curfew hours, criminal activity increases in non-curfew hours. Furthermore, it is argued that curfew measures violate the constitutional rights of children and parents (especially those protected by the First Amendment). Nevertheless officials of several localities have reported some success since the introduction of these initiatives. They found both juvenile arrests and victimization declining by over 10% during curfew hours.
To be successful, curfew programs must be enforced over a long period and community volunteers should be involved, e.g. in dealing with paperwork or waiting for parents to pick up their children. Other essential factors are curfew hotlines to answer questions from the community, recreational/education/job opportunities for offenders, anti-drug and anti-gang programs and intervention services for juveniles and their families.