Studies find teen curfews reduce crime—or not

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Capital News Service
LANSING—When Lake County had a problem with mischievous youth, the police department stepped up curfew enforcement for those under 16 and it paid off.
The number of youth crimes decreased, Lake County Sheriff Robert Hilts said.
Similar effects have been reported elsewhere.
After curfew laws are put in place, youth arrests drop 10 percent in that area, according to a recent study done by the University of California, Berkeley. The study researched 54 U.S. cities with 180,000 or more residents.
Researchers also found that arrests of young adults above the curfew age also decline slightly.
Michigan law requires kids under the age of 16 to be off the streets between midnight and 6 a.m. This includes loitering, or congregating on a public street, highway, alleyway or park unless accompanied by an adult.
Cities and villages can also adopt their own curfews, Hilts said. “If the kids are off the street, they probably can’t get in trouble.”
The parents need to help out and enforce the curfews too, he said.
But some experts say the jury is still out on curfew effectiveness.
Some studies find a decrease in youth crime after curfew laws are implemented, but there are an equal number of studies that prove crimes increase, said Chris Melde, assistant professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.
Most of the crimes committed by school-aged youth are committed in the three hours following the school day, he said.
“If you want to have a really large decrease in crime, you have to control crime between three and six at night,” Melde said.
Curfews aren’t the way to solve serious juvenile crime, Melde said, and different ways have been tested like limiting the number of kids that can be in a store at one time.
Youth curfews come up in the Legislature often.
Almost a year ago, Michigan passed a law forbidding teens under the age of 17 from driving between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unsupervised unless it’s for a school-related activity.
The intent was to reduce accidents, said Rep. Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland, sponsor of the driving bill.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.

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