Curfew laws are being carefully examined right now. Some adults believe that they are necessary and that they help curb adolescent crime. Others believe that they violate rights and don’t really solve the problem at all. To look at this issue more closely, there are two articles, one in support of curfew laws, and one against it. The first article is by David Knight, who is in support of curfew laws. There are strengths to his article. First of all, he is a police officer who has seen teen crime firsthand.
He is also a parent, so he knows that kids may tell their parents one thing (i. e. “I’m going to Johnny’s house”) but really do another, intentionally or unintentionally. Knight is convinced that at night, teens can get into trouble because fewer people are watching them. Also, he says that teens who are out at night are likely behaving in ways that are disruptive, like violating noise ordinances and drinking underage. Knight points out that no one, regardless of their age, has the right to disrupt others and be publicly annoying.
These are all good points. However, Knight fails to point out what effect, exactly, curfews have had on the juvenile crime rates. He also ignores other possibilities in combating juvenile crime, such as counseling or afterschool programs, or the parent’s role. While it is true, as Knight says, that some kids will lie to their parents, it is insulting and ridiculous to assume that all kids will lie to their parents. Knight glosses over this idea, and one has to wonder how much he trusts his own kids.
The second article is by Colin Miller, who opposes curfew laws. The strengths are the statistics he cites – that most juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3 pm and 11 pm, with most occurring before 8 pm. He also states that afterschool programs have been shown to be far more effective in combating crime than curfews. Finally, curfews have cost cities a lot of money in increased police costs, money that Miller says could be used to fund afterschool programs and other ways to combat juvenile crime more effectively.
Miller also says that curfews take away the parents’ rights, while making them more responsible for their teens’ behavior. The weaknesses of his article are that he doesn’t talk much about the actual effects of curfews on teens in the towns, he just says they are “ineffective. ” He also doesn’t look at the law enforcement’s point of view much. I agree with Miller. Miller makes many more reasonable arguments than does Knight. Knight assumes that all kids are inherently bad, and that the only thing they would be doing on the streets is getting into trouble.
While it’s easy to see how Knight would feel this way – he is a cop who deals primarily with teens in trouble – it is a false and troubling assumption about teens. Knight’s statement that all teens lie to their parents and that parents can’t control their kids without the law’s help is also ridiculous. This supposes no trust or respect between parents and kids, and many parents have raised their kids better than this. Miller recognizes that kids are often inherently good, and that those that aren’t are going to get in trouble just as much (and more) during the day as at night.
Research has shown, as Miller states, that it is in the afterschool hours (when parents are still at work and kids are unsupervised) that kids are more likely to get in trouble, if they are going to get in trouble at all. What’s more, Miller is correct in saying that teens need the freedom to make choices if they are to learn to make good ones. Teens are nearly grown up, and if they can’t even choose to come home early (or to go to a good evening event, possibly at a friend’s house or at church), then how are they going to be entirely responsible for themselves in a year or two?
Teens should be given more freedom as they grow up, not less. Finally, instead of punishing all teens who are out late at night, cops and the rest of society should worry about helping the teens who are in trouble, those who have already been in the system for doing something they shouldn’t. These teens need help, they need supervision, they need people to care about them and provide them with alternative activities. In general, money is much better spent on real crime prevention than punishing the innocent.