Sunday, May 17, 2009

What is summer without the youth curfew discussion?

A recent post on the 3D Substation Yahoo Group has called for a youth curfew. . . What is summer without this debate?!

As many of you know, the District has a curfew law.   As I pointed out in my response to the 3D Substation posting, details about the DC juvenile curfew are on the MPD Web site.   September to June, young people, with exceptions, have to be home by 11:00; the time changes to midnight during the summer months.   The more important part of my response on the 3D Substation list is this:

The curfew hours were changed (restricted) in the summer of 2006 by Mayor Williams when Chief Ramsey declared a crime emergency.   Both sides of the debate came out fighting at that time.   MPD reports that the number of curfew violators increased during the crime emergency; see Impact of the 2006 Crime Emergency in the District of Columbia.   As a long-time observer of MPD, and as someone who has worked with MPD in various capacities in a collegial public-private way, my take on the data differs from that of MPD.   I agree that the number of violators picked up increased during 2006.   But I would argue that the numbers were higher precisely because MPD made curfew violations a priority for officers and not necessarily because there were more violators.
The curfew is only one tool that the community can use to “deal” with young people. I would argue now, as I did for years in my role as a child advocate at a citywide DC child advocacy organization, that it is not the most effective tool to guide people in the right direction.   THAT happens when we (the city, families, nonprofits, etc.) put actions in place directed to changing the trajectory of youth behavior.
Other pertinent information on the curfew is here:

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