|Reviving Youth Curfews?
October 26, 2005
Now here is what we thought was an outdated concept being revived. East Palo Alto, which is experiencing a homicide epidemic even higher than Richmond (13 so far this year – 50/100,000 population extrapolated annually), is going to enforce its youth curfew, which has been on the books for 10 years but not enforced.
Richmond, in comparison, has 30 homicides so far this year with an extrapolated annualized rate of 37/100,000, significantly behind East Palo Alto but far more than the national average of 5.7/100,000.
Richmond also has a youth curfew ordinance, Chapter 11.60 MINORS, which was apparently passed in 1982, but to the best of my knowledge, has never been enforced.
The Richmond ordinance states: “It shall be unlawful for any minor, who is not in the company of his or her parent, to loiter in or about any public street during the hours of curfew unless (a) the minor is on an emergency errand; (b) the minor is on an errand for his or her parent; (c) the minor is returning home from his or her place of employment; or (d) the minor is returning home from a class, meeting, social event or recreational activity.”
“Hours of Curfew" means the hours of the day between ten p.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights and six a.m. on the following days and the hours of the day between 12:01 a.m. and six a.m. on Saturday and Sunday except that during summer the "hours of curfew" shall mean the hours of the day between eleven p.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights and six a.m. on the following days and the hours of the day between 12:01 a.m. and six a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Would this be a good thing for Richmond?
East Palo Alto will begin enforcing a youth curfew it adopted 10 years ago in an effort to curtail juvenile crime, but experts said Tuesday that such laws are ineffective.
In a letter to residents, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis said the department decided to enforce the curfew, which has been on the books since 1995, because the number of homicides had spiked -- 13 so far in 2005; there were 7 in 2004 -- and because gangs were aggressively recruiting children as young as 9 and 10 years old. Under the law, anyone younger than 18 will have to comply with an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew starting Nov. 1.
"When we allow our youth to loiter in public places and street corners past 11 p.m., we expose them to gang recruitment, criminal activity and violence," Davis wrote.
East Palo Alto Police Sgt. Alma Zamora said enforcing the curfew will give police the chance to alert parents to problems.
"Many times, parents don't know their kids are staying out that late," she said. "If they are out that late and we give them a ride home, we can speak with their parents. We can give parents information on gangs, because many parents don't know the signs that their children are involved with gangs."
The law allows teenagers to run errands for a parents or guardian; travel to or return home from a job, school, or a religious, cultural, sports, amusement or recreational activity; and travel to or return home from a supervised rally, demonstration or meeting -- as long as they do so without detouring or stopping along the way.
During the first 15 days of November, police will give verbal warnings to children, and their parents or guardians, who violate the curfew. Starting Nov. 15, police will begin issuing citations. If minors are found guilty, they can be fined up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 and/or six months in jail for a second offense.
Major studies have shown that curfews have a "negligible" effect on juvenile crime, in part because they are imposed at night, said Patrick Gardner, deputy director of the National Center for Youth Law.
"Juvenile crime peaks in the late afternoon when kids are left unsupervised," he said, speaking by telephone from the group's headquarters in Oakland. "Juvenile crime rises when funding for summer employment declines -- once again, when kids have been left unsupervised."
Gardner cited a 2002 study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which showed that a curfew adopted by San Jose in the 1990s had no effect on juvenile crime, and that the juvenile crime rate dropped in San Francisco during those same years when the city stopped enforcing its curfew.
San Jose Police Officer Gina Tepoorten said the city no longer assigns officers to the youth curfew beat and has closed its curfew center, which offered counseling services to families whose children had broken the law.
E-mail Kathleen Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.