Mandating curfews

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Although juvenile crime dropped during the decade, it made for good press – and, in several cities, for new curfews.

“The street corners and vacant lots of the city are the kindergartens of a school of crime,” opined an editorial writer in Chicago, endorsing the city’s 1921 curfew.

This type of challenge has not be effective, but other challenges based on unlawful arrest or racial profiling have been more effective.

Emergency Curfew Laws Emergency curfews are usually temporary orders that are put in place -- by federal, state, or local government -- in response to a particular crisis, like a natural disaster or ongoing civil disturbance.

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Between 19, criminal offenses by juveniles rose 26 percent; even worse, youth crimes against persons – murder, rape, and assault – skyrocketed 56 percent. From 1990 to 1995, 53 of America’s 200 largest cities enacted new curfew ordinances.

Most Not surprisingly, juvenile curfew laws are not without controversy and they can be legally challenged.

Common defenses are on constitutional grounds as discriminatory on the basis of age.

Nationwide, more than 80 percent of juvenile offenses take place between 9 a.m. In a close study of Monrovia, Calif., in the 1990s, for example, sociologist Michael Males found that juvenile arrests for non-curfew crimes increased 53 percent during the school months when the town’s curfew was enforced.

In July and August, when the curfew was not enforced, non-curfew youth crime went down 12 percent. The answer has less to with youth than with adults.

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