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Fayetteville mayor Nat Robertson recently proposed a citywide curfew for children under 16, and a ban on loitering around schools. The intent of these policies is to decrease drug and gang activity around schools and among kids in general. Theoretically, forbidding kids from being on the streets at night would help keep them away from the wrong people and out of trouble.

However, curfews and loitering bans by themselves are essentially just laws, and laws can be worked around and/or broken.

It’s debatable whether or not curfews are really effective against youth offenses. Supporters of curfews, like John Dekker, would say that they’re effective because they get parents involved, as they would “grow tired quickly of having to pick up their children [when they’re repeatedly caught unattended during curfew hours].” But what about more apathetic parents who don’t really mind picking their children up so much, or just don’t care what they do? It makes sense that parents would get engaged for their children’s safety and their own convenience, but it’s wrong to assume that all parents are model parents like these.

Furthermore, according to this article, a 1976 Detroit youth curfew didn’t curb youth crimes rather than change their timeframe, as “Juvenile crime dropped 6 percent during the curfew hours, but it increased 13 percent in the midafternoon.” This is a classic example of rules being bent and no real progress being made.

In light of all this, solving juvenile crime isn’t as simple as passing a law that restricts movement. I’d recommend recreational programs and other positive reinforcement to help keep children’s minds off of criminal activity. A child’s behavior depends on how he or she is raised and the environment that influences how they grow and develop, not on rules that were made to be broken.

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