According to the Des Moines Register today, “neighborhood leaders want to form a task force to help combat a rash of youth violence that’s rattled north-central Des Moines in recent months.”
Due to a rash of gunfire in Des Moines during the final months of 2010, the idea for a youth violence task force came about.
According to the Register, between early September and late November, police fielded about 75 service calls related to gunfire, which investigators believe were from small groups of fighting teenagers.
Apparently, curfews are in place in several Iowa cities including Bettendorf, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Iowa City Sioux City, Waterloo, and Indianola.
Reasons for Having a Curfew Ordinance
There are many reasons various towns and cities in the United States would wish to have a curfew ordinance in effect in their area. Some of the primary reasons are listed below:
1. Increased teen violence including shootings, fights, bullying, thefts, and assaults
2. Assisting parents in parenting their children after hours
3. Make neighborhoods safer and stronger
4. Reduce and eliminate gang activity
5. Deter juvenile victimization and delinquency
History and Statistics of Curfews
Curfews were originally started in the 1890’s in order to decrease crime among immigrant youth. During World War II, curfews were an effective control for parents who were busy helping with the war effort. In the 1970’s however, curfew ordinances came as a response to growing juvenile crime during the 1970’s.
According to a a report prepared by Donni Le Boeuf, Senior Program Manager, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, April 1996, the following states have laws which allow them to enact curfew ordinances:
- Hawaii (has a statewide curfew legislation)
- New York
Note that since that time, many more states may have ordinances as well. In fact, in a December 1995 survey of 1,000 cities with populations of more than 30,000, the Conference of Mayors found that 70% or 270 of the 387 cities responding, have a curfew ordinance in place.
Challenges to Curfew Laws
Over the years there have been many challenges to curfew laws. Legal challenges are usually based on the following amendments: 1st, 4th, 9th, and 14th. Opponents are concerned with the limitations on a youth’s first amendment right to free speech and association as well as breaking privacy rights to parents rearing of their children.
In Quth v. Bartlett, a mother and daughter challenged the ordinance that it infringed upon a youth’s right to mobility and free association. Tinker v. Des Moines School District in 1969 ruled that students had the right to freedom of speech in schools. This case involved how school officials had forbidden a group of students from carrying out their symbolic protest of the Vietnam War by wearing back armbands.
In Missouri v. Danforth in 1976, it was stated that people have full constitutional rights regardless of age.
These challenges and more are things to consider before the City of Des Moines makes the decision to put a curfew ordinance in place.
Facts to Consider in Making a Curfew Law Effective
In order to make your curfew law effective, legislators need to keep in mind the amendments which have been challenged over the years since curfew laws first went into effect. Remembering that children have the right to free movement and speech is paramount in having your curfew law effective.
Also important to keep in mind is that ongoing statistics and measurements of how your law is working would be beneficial in proving the benefits of the curfew law. Many states have curfews in place, but very few have been able to prove the effectiveness of their laws.
The following are several points to keep in mind in making your curfew policy effective:
- Sustained enforcement and community involvement
- Creation of a curfew center to receive juveniles who have been picked up by the police for violating curfew
- Staffing centers with community social service providers and volunteers
- Intervention where social service providers can refer juveniles and their families for help in preventing further infractions of the curfew law
- Procedures for repeat offenders
- Recreation and job programs
- Anti-drug and anti-gang programs
- Hotlines for crisis intervention
Prevention Summary: Curfew: An Answer to Juvenile Delinquency and Victimization? http://www.tyc.state.tx.us/prevention/curfews.html
Curfew for Des Moines Youths may get Consideration by Jason Pulliam, Des Moines Register, 1-22-2011
Analysis of U.S. Curfew Laws http://www.youthrights.org/curfewana.php