Across the country, parents, communities and teens debate for or against curfews. In the United States, curfew laws generally apply to minors under the age of 18. Put in place to keep them safe from harm, many teenagers feel that curfews limit their freedom and place unnecessary restrictions on them. But curfew laws also keep minors out of harm's way -- as perpetrators or victims -- during the hours when most criminal activity occurs.
Residents in counties and cities across the United States look to curfew laws to keep kids safe. The night is the time that gangs typically gather to commit violence under the cover of darkness. Some gangs even travel to adjoining counties that do not have curfew laws to fight rival gangs, often resulting in escalated violence and death. When local governments impose a curfew, its purpose is to protect the innocent and corral the guilty.
Discrimination and Restriction
On the opposite side of the coin, curfews place limitations and restrictions on those affected equally, good and bad. This can upset minors who hold down jobs that may keep them up past the curfew's limit. Most any juvenile outside during the curfew may be judged as being of ill intent, which might not be the case at all. Law enforcement agencies may paint those who break curfew with the same brush, when the teen was doing nothing wrong other than traveling home from work or a school event.
The traditional argument in support of curfew may stem from the perceived notion of teen criminal activity occurring mostly at night. Crimes committed by juveniles carrying a firearm are more likely between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., according to a study issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2014. Juvenile crimes with a firearm include such criminal acts as violent sexual assault, murder, robbery, and simple and aggravated assault, which support the need for a curfew.
A study that supports the argument against curfews -- with statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Justice from law enforcement agencies in 35 states -- shows that most violent crimes committed by minors occur just after school lets out during the week, and during the evening hours between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on nonschool days. The study also notes that the eight hours of curfew each day is four times greater than the four-hour period between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. during the school year when juvenile violence is more likely to occur. This finding poses the argument that curfews pose little benefit against juvenile violence.
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