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Practice Profile

Juvenile Curfew Laws

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Practice Description

Practice Goals
The goal of juvenile curfew laws is to reduce youth-related crime, violence, and delinquency by keeping juveniles at home during the nighttime hours, where they will presumably be exposed to fewer opportunities to commit crime or become a victim of crime. More recently, curfew laws have been enacted to apply to the time that youths should be in school, to allow the police to better enforce truancy laws.  
Target Population
The target population comprises all juveniles in a geographical area, as defined by individual curfew laws. Some laws specify youths under 18 years of age, while others specify youths under age 17.  
Practice Components
Juvenile curfew laws include a variety of regulated activities and penalties. The laws vary in targeted age groups, hours of restricted activities, exceptions, and sanctions.

Curfew hours vary, but often begin at 10 or 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends, and end at 5 or 6 a.m.  However, some daytime curfew ordinances, designed to keep youths in school and off the streets, have been enacted and apply to 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Common exceptions to the laws include traveling with a parent or guardian; or returning home from school, work, or a religious activity. Sanctions can include fines (that may increase with the number of violations), community service, or driver’s license restrictions.   

Practice Theory
Curfew laws are a general deterrence strategy aimed at reducing crime and victimization in the overall population of juveniles. That is, reduced opportunity to commit crimes should translate into committing fewer crimes (Wilson et al. 2016). From a theoretical perspective, curfews are primarily designed to prevent crime and violence by keeping juveniles away from delinquent opportunities. They are viewed by some as part of a more vigorous law-enforcement effort, and by others as identifying juveniles in early stages of delinquency and providing them with an opportunity for intervention programs. However, juvenile curfew laws have been the subject of numerous legal challenges (see Additional Information below).  

Additional Information

Curfew laws have been challenged on the grounds that they are unconstitutional, based on violations of freedom of speech, equal protection and due process, freedom of movement, rights of parents to rear their children, and that the youths are mostly not adjudicated delinquents (Wilson et al. 2016; Schwartz and Wang 2005; Yeide 2009).  The constitutional basis for infringing on the rights of youth rests on the assumption that curfews reduce juvenile crime and victimization. The results of the challenges are mixed, but Wilson and colleagues (2016), note that the more exceptions for “`acceptable activities’ (for example, legitimate employment) a given policy provides, the more likely it is to survive a challenge on constitutional grounds.”

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Wilson and colleagues (2016) analyzed two independent samples to assess the impact of juvenile curfew laws on juvenile crime during curfew hours. Results indicated that curfews did not have a significant effect on juvenile criminal behavior during curfew hours. The authors noted, however, that the findings could also indicate that there could have been an effect that was too small to be measured.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11999 - 2012120

Meta-Analysis 1

Wilson and colleagues (2016) examined the effect of juvenile curfew laws on crimes committed by juveniles.  A comprehensive search was conducted for eligible studies. To be included in the review, studies must have assessed the effect of an official state or local policy that was designed to restrict or otherwise provide sanctions against juveniles who were not inside their homes during certain times of day. The curfew had to have been a general preventative measure that applied to all youths within a given age range. Studies were excluded if they included curfews imposed on specific youths as part of a sentence or probation condition. In addition, the curfew ordinance had to have been passed to improve public safety by targeting juvenile crime and delinquency; thus, military or riot curfews were excluded. Ordinances aimed solely at restricting driving hours were excluded, but studies that included curfew policies that had exemptions for specific types of conventional activity (such as school, work, or community activities) were included as such exemptions are common. Eligible studies could have been conducted in any country and published in any form as long as the language of the publication was English.

Any quantitative evaluation designs were eligible.  Because juvenile curfew laws are imposed on all juveniles living in a geographic area, randomized controlled trials (at the individual level) are not feasible. Though they are possible at the geographic area level, they are not feasible given that jurisdictions cannot legally agree to a study in which a random process established whether or not an ordinance would be passed. Thus, the strongest study design anticipated by the researchers was an interrupted time series. The comprehensive search identified 12 studies that were used in the overall meta-analysis project, but only two studies examined juvenile arrests during curfew hours (a 2003 report by Roman and Moore that used an interrupted time series design; and a 1999 Males and Macallair study that used a short interrupted time series design).  
The study by Roman and Moore (2003) examined juvenile arrests during nighttime curfew hours (10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays; midnight to 5 a.m. on weekends).The Males and Macallair (1999) study examined the nation’s first truancy curfew law, which made it illegal for juveniles to be in public during daytime school hours. Both studies examined laws that were aimed at 12 to 17 year olds. The small number of studies precluded the researchers from conducting planned moderator analyses. 
Because a macro-level examination of crime or victimization counts over time cannot be used to compute typical effect sizes (e.g., standardized mean differences, odds ratios), the percent change in the crime or victimization count was used as the effect size. The researchers used a random effects, inverse-variance-weighted meta-analysis to synthesize the effects sizes across the identified studies.  Analyses were conducted on the difference in the logged counts or rates.

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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In their meta-analysis, Wilson and colleagues (2016) also examined overall juvenile crime rates (i.e., not only during curfew hours) in seven studies. Results revealed no statistically significant effect of juvenile curfews on overall juvenile crime rates during non-curfew hours.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Wilson, David, Charlotte Gill, Ajima Olaghere, and Dave McClure. 2016. "Juvenile Curfew Effects on Criminal Behavior and Victimization: A Systematic Review." Campbell Systematic Reviews 12(3).
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Adams, Kenneth. “The Effectiveness of Juvenile Curfews at Crime Prevention.” 2003. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 587(1): 136–59.

Males, Mike A., and Dan Macallair. 1999.  "An Analysis of Curfew Enforcement and Juvenile Crime in California." Western Criminology Review 1(2).

Roman, Caterina Gouvis, and G. E. Moore. 2003. Evaluation of the Youth Curfew in Prince George’s County, Maryland: The Curfew’s Impact on Arrests and Calls for Service. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute.

Schwartz, Angie, and Lucy Wang. 2005. Proliferating Curfew Laws Keep Kids at Home, but Fail to Curb Juvenile Crime. Oakland, Calif.: National Center for Youth Law.

Watzman, Nancy. 1994. "The Curfew Revival Gains Momentum." Governing 7(5):20–21.

Yeide, Martha. 2009. “Curfew Violation.” Literature review. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Operation Night Light (ONL) (Midwest) No Effects - One study
This is a home-visiting program for youth on probation who are considered at high risk of recidivism. The program is rated No Effects. Compared with the treatment group, the control group was more likely to have completed probation, less likely to have probation revoked due to a technical violation, and committed fewer new crimes during probation; however, they recidivated sooner. There were no differences in the probation revocations due to severity of a new crime.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 0 - 17

Gender: Both

Targeted Population: Status Offenders, Young Offenders

Settings: Other Community Setting

Practice Type: General deterrence, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Other