Column: Curfew will not reduce the juvenile crime rate

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Column: Curfew will not reduce the juvenile crime rate

Christine Johnson In My Opinion

Christine Johnson In My Opinion

The Maroon

Christine Johnson In My Opinion

The Maroon

The Maroon

Christine Johnson In My Opinion

Christine Johnson In My Opinion

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Anyone who has been keeping up with New Orleans news has undoubtedly heard about the juvenile curfew currently in place in the French Quarter, requiring all youths under the age of 17 to be off the streets by 8 p.m.

I originally supported this curfew because I, along with nearly all other New Orleans residents, desperately want to see a reduction in crime rates. The New Orleans City Council, however, is now debating whether or not to make the 8 p.m. juvenile curfew citywide.

But is this method even effective? The simple answer is “no.” One of the most comprehensive studies regarding the correlation between youth curfew laws and crime rates was the 1999 “Analysis of Curfew Enforcement and Juvenile Crime” by Mike Males and Dan Macallair. In this study, they analyzed crime statistics from 12 different California counties between 1978 and 1997.

The results of the analysis are as follows: when youth curfews were imposed, two counties showed an increase in youth-committed felonies, two showed an increase in youth-committed homicide, one showed an increase in youth-committed violent crime and three showed an increase in misdemeanors. Only one county showed a decrease in youth-committed homicide, with the rest of the counties showing no statistically significant difference in crime rate. Furthermore, when San Francisco cut back on its curfew laws, youth crime rate actually dropped by 16 percent.

This study suggests that curfew laws are not only ineffective at significantly reducing the crime rate but can also contribute to an increase in crime rate. Imposing a curfew on the teenagers of New Orleans is like putting a Band-Aid on a knife wound — it may provide a small amount of temporary relief, but it fails to address the underlying cause of youth-committed crime and in no way provides a long lasting solution to the crime rate problem of New Orleans.

Our city has already seen that this method doesn’t work. We have had a youth curfew in place since 1994, but we are still number one in the nation for homicide rates and a contender in other violent crimes. Putting a stricter curfew on these youths is only going to antagonize them and make them stir crazy.

What the New Orleans City Council should be focusing on is improving the city’s public education system, improving the quality of rehabilitative services for youth offenders (as 83 percent of juveniles who commit homicide have previous criminal records), providing more easily accessible job placement services and simply providing more activities that youth can be involved in. As a New Orleans native, I can attest to the fact that while New Orleans is full of fun opportunities for young adults and above, there is very little for the teenagers to do. We need to increase the amount of recreational facilities in New Orleans that cater to teenagers so that they won’t just hang out on the streets and get into dangerous situations.

If this curfew ordinance passes, we will be telling the New Orleans youth that that they are the problem and that they need to be locked up at night. Instead, why don’t we teach them to be a part of the solution by providing conflict resolution training within the school system and after-school programs and jobs that can both keep them busy and help them learn to be productive members of society?

Christine Johnson is a music theory sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]

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