NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Do Teen Curfews Work?

September 22, 1999

Towns across America have been passing teen curfews to get potential trouble-makers and possible victims off the streets at night. How successful are these laws?

  • Some 300 towns and cities now have curfew laws for minors.
  • Not surprisingly, the crime that children are most arrested for in America is curfew violations -- with some 140,000 curfew arrests in 1996.
  • That amounts to more than the total arrests for juvenile violent crimes put together.
  • A study by researchers at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice looked at a variety of curfews enforced throughout California from 1978 to 1996 and determined that counties that had strict curfews did not see a decrease in youth crime greater than those counties without such curfews.

That held true for all kinds of crime.

Experts hold that the booming economy, rather than curfews, holds the answer as to why juvenile crime has been declining. Having a job makes crime less attractive. Also, the prospect of being locked up for years could be a strong deterrent.

Source: "Lights Out," Economist, September 18, 1999.


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