curfew




When you hear politicians and police talking about getting tough on "juvenile crime," you may imagine a school shooting, like those that have occurred in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Springfield Oregon. Others may recall TV clips of young people, sometimes covered by masks or paper bags to hide their identities, being dragged away in handcuffs, as the television speaks of charges ranging from rape to robbery. But in America today, more kids are arrested for curfew law violations then any other single category of crime, including all violent crimes combined. Everyone from law enforcement to the President have endorsed tougher curfew laws as being the solution to America\'s crime woes, though none have ever cited real data to prove that sending over a hundred thousand kids through the justice system for being out too late each year reduces crime. They assume that anything that takes kids off the streets must reduce crime.
There is no justification to juvenile curfews (which may explain why the Supreme Court did not write an opinion on the matter). Restricting an American\'s freedom of movement is an obvious trespass over the First Amendment, and to stroll around a park or public square is hardly the "clear and present danger" to the community usually required for such an infringement. Today, it seems as if the laws are making it a crime to be young. Curfew laws infringe on the rights of all people, specifically honing in on the youth. Generally, they should move around without interference from authorities unless and until they are actually doing something unlawful. But a city mayor or councilman has no need for such rhetoric. Why worry about the First Amendment when one can claim to be reducing the crime rate, yet affect no voters?
A majority of the major cities have a nighttime youth curfew, and a small percent of these cities also post a daytime curfew. It\'s thought that enforcing this law is a productive use of a police officer\'s time. Many say curfews give police time to focus on older criminals, since the so-called juvenile delinquents will now be off the streets.
However, many also think that curfew enforcement is not the best use of an officer\'s time. Some cities complain that curfews increase the amount of paperwork they must process. And some noted there is nowhere to take juvenile violators if their parents aren\'t home. The cities that do not find curfews a useful tool argue that nighttime curfews place the city in the parental role and simply cause more crimes during non-curfew hours.
It is difficult to imagine a more blatant violation of Constitutional rights than the curfew laws which restrict the movements of teens nationwide. The Supreme Court has refused to hear cases questioning such laws ruling that mere sauntering or loitering on a public way is lawful and the right of any man, woman, or child. Nowadays, it seems that The Bill of Rights, apparently, is still only applicable to those whom the government wishes to enfranchise. Therefore, with this in consideration, I hope that one comes to realize that keeping kids inside all night will just refocus the crimes elsewhere. Instead of worrying about what time it is and where your children are, you should be concerned with greater problems.


Bibliography: