On Curfews

I just heard about the new 9 PM curfew on minors passed into law in Philadelphia, and it is absolutely outrageous. This specific curfew was established to make it more difficult for so called “flash mobs” of teens to organize. The curfew will be entirely useless against this behavior, because the curfew requires a police officer to physically “catch” a minor breaking curfew to enforce it, but if an officer catches a flash mob organizing, they were able to arrest them even before the curfew.

The reality is, curfews just make police officers make more arrests than necessary. Suppose two identical situations, with one difference, in one there is a curfew, and in the other there is not. Here is the one without:

It’s 10 PM. A police officer drives by a teen couple walking home from the movies. He hardly notices them as he is concentrating on finding illegal activity so that he can fulfill his quota (quotas for police are wholly different problem altogether). He keeps driving until he approaches two teen boys walking together and gets suspicious. His suspicions turn out to be true as he turns a corner to discover a flash mob organizing. He makes arrests for conspiracy (or whatever he pleases) and takes the mob to the station.

And here it is with a curfew:

It’s 10 PM. A police officer drives by a teen couple on the way home from the movies. He doesn’t need any more arrests to fill his quota, because he made 22 arrests for curfew violations in the last three weeks. He calls another officer to escort them home. Upon arrival, the boy’s parents apologize for not being able to escort the couple home as planned because of unexpected complications. The first officer keeps driving until he approaches two suspicious-looking teen boys. His suspicions are confined as he turns the corner to find a flash mob organizing. He arrests them for conspiracy (not for curfew violation) and takes the mob to the station.

The curfew made no difference for arresting the mob. What it did do, however, is cause unnecessary embarrassment and discomfort to the couple, who was arrested for walking home from the movies.

Apart from curfews being counterproductive, they’re also a violation of basic human rights. Yes, if you’re wondering, people under 18 are human too, and they deserve basic human rights. If a curfew was established for adults, even with considerations for those returning home from work, or leaving to work night shift, or night school, there would be absolutely no tolerance.

It’s an over broad law, it creates an inconvenience for every minor, simply because 2% or less of minors were engaging in illegal activity. If a curfew were established for senior citizens because of incidents of violence from Alzheimer’s patients, no one would support it.

Curfews that are intended to maintain the safety of children in potentially dangerous areas actually solve a problem, unlike those intended to prevent crime from minors, but they should be left up to parents to enforce, not the law. If parents do not enforce a curfew, run a PSA campaign asking parents to do so, but making it mandatory is oppressive to say the least.

  1. adrusi posted this