Philadelphia skyline from South Street Bridge (DOUGH 4872, BRIAN W. SCHALLER VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/City & State Pa).
Philadelphia City Council made headlines last week when it passed a strict, permanent curfew for teens in the state’s largest city, requiring most youth to be home by 10 p.m., or risk action by the police, according to our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune.
“At a time when there seems like there is no limit of the senseless whirlwind of violence facing teens and young people, we are taking a temporary step in the absence of a cure-all,” Councilmember Anthony Phillips, who comes from a nonprofit that works with young people, and who backed the bill, said, according to WHYY-FM in Philadelphia.
But will the curfew, which provides exceptions for young people who are traveling to and from work, school, or religious activities, as well as unhoused youth, actually work? The curfew was implemented on a temporary basis over the summer, the Tribune reported.
The short answer, according to reporting by The Appeal, is ‘no.’ In fact, they may have the exact opposite effect.
The restrictions “harm children and damage communities,” the online news organization reported late last month, as it took a comprehensive look at youth curfews across a variety of jurisdictions.
Right now, there are more than 400 curfews jurisdictions nationwide, The Appeal reported, citing data compiled by the National Youth Rights Association. And the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world to apply them so liberally, The Appeal reported.
The curfews often carry stiff penalties, with violators being punished with fines or criminal charges, or even to placements with child protective services agencies.
In Philadelphia, children picked up by police for violating curfew will first be taken home, according to the Philadelphia Tribune. If there’s no one home, the young people will be transferred to the local police district or one of the city’s community resource centers, the newspaper reported.
In 2019, around 11,650 young people were arrested for curfew violations or for loitering, The Appeal reported, citing FBI data. Nearly three in 10 of those children were Black.
“At best, curfews are an ineffective band-aid; at worst, they criminalize our most vulnerable and at-risk children,” Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartigue said in a September 2022 statement, responding to a curfew in Prince George’s County, according to The Appeal.
“Youth who are not safe in their home, or lack a stable home, will be subject to police and court involvement regardless of whether they are involved in any delinquent or criminal activity. Curfews serve as an entry into the school-to-prison pipeline,” Dartigue said.
As The Appeal notes, a 2016 review of 12 studies by the nonprofit Campbell Collaboration concluded that curfews were “ineffective at reducing crime and victimization,” and that there were slight increases in crime during curfew hours.
In a “2018 study, researchers found that in Washington, D.C., gun violence increased in some instances, possibly because busier streets may be a greater deterrent for crime. Curfews likely decreased public safety at the time, taking up time police officers could be using to investigate serious crimes,” according to The Appeal.
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