Baltimore’s Juvenile Curfew

Date01 June 2020
Published date01 June 2020
Subject MatterArticles
CJR626971 171..184 Article
Criminal Justice Review
2020, Vol. 45(2) 171-184
Baltimore’s Juvenile Curfew:
ª 2016 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
Evaluating Effectiveness
DOI: 10.1177/0734016815626971
Lacey N. Wallace1
Juvenile curfew statutes are used in hundreds of cities across the United States to prevent juvenile
offending and victimization. In spite of their popularity, there is disagreement in the existing liter-
ature as to whether juvenile curfews are truly effective. The current study assesses the effectiveness
of a change in the juvenile curfew statutes in Baltimore, MD. Data consist of police arrest records for
the months preceding and following the curfew change. Regression analyses address both change in
arrest totals and change in the ratio of youth to adult arrests and the ratio of arrests within curfew
hours to outside of curfew hours. Results indicate an increase in the ratio of youth to adult arrests
during curfew hours. However, arrest totals were decreasing overall at the time of the curfew
change. Implications for further investigation are discussed.
juvenile curfew, juvenile offending, public policy
Although juvenile arrest rates for violent crime have consistently been on the decline since the mid-
1990s (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2014), juveniles still constituted 13%
of all violent crime arrests and 20% of all property crime arrests in 2011 (Puzzanchera, 2013).
Juvenile offenders are responsible for the majority of violent crimes against those aged 8–15 (Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2005). However, juveniles are also vulnerable to
victimization. A juvenile was more than twice as likely as an adult to be the victim of violent crime
from 1993 to 2003 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005). Juveniles aged 12–17 had the highest violent
victimization rate of all age-groups in 2013 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2015). These figures have
led many localities to consider policies that might curb the occurrence of victimization and offend-
ing among juveniles.
One such policy, and the focus of the present article, is a juvenile curfew statute that prohibits
juveniles from frequenting public places within specified hours. A number of major cities in the
United States including Los Angeles, New Orleans, Houston, and Detroit have enacted such laws
1 Department of Criminal Justice, Penn State Altoona, Altoona, PA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Lacey N. Wallace, Department of Criminal Justice, Penn State Altoona, 101G Cypress Building, 3000 Ivyside Park, Altoona,
PA 16601, USA.

Criminal Justice Review 45(2)
(Kline, 2011). In 2014, Baltimore, MD, revised its existing juvenile curfew to be among the strictest
in the nation. The potential effects of this change for victimization or offending are unclear.
Although McDowall, Loftin, and Wiersema (2000) found some declines in arrests for crimes like
burglary and larceny after revised curfew laws in other cities, these were not mirrored by declines in
offending or victimization; there appeared to be little, if any, impact resulting from the curfews.
Kline (2011), in contrast, examined arrest data and found significant declines in both violent and
property crime arrests for juveniles following the implementation of curfews. Kline, however, did
not examine the effects of revising an existing statute.
Previously, youth in Baltimore were permitted to remain in public until 11 p.m. on weeknights
and midnight on weekends (Baltimore Police Department, 2013). Except under certain extenuating
circumstances, Baltimore’s new curfew prohibits any person less than 14 years of age to be in any
public place or establishment between 9 p.m. on any day and 6 a.m. of the following day (The Mayor
and City Council of Baltimore, 2014). Youth aged 14–17 may not stay out past 10 p.m. on a
weeknight (11 p.m. during the summer) or 11 p.m. on a weekend (The Mayor and City Council
of Baltimore, 2014). Youth are also subject to a daytime curfew during school hours. Parents of
juveniles violating curfew may be penalized by fines or community service hours (The Mayor and
City Council of Baltimore, 2014). While these are substantial changes, the impact of the revised
policy is both unknown and controversial. The present article assesses the effects of Baltimore’s
change in curfew statutes on the number of arrests to determine whether the change in policy
affected crime.
Theory Behind Curfew Laws
The rationale for using juvenile curfew laws to prevent criminal offending matches closely with the
propositions of routine activities theory. According to this theory, criminal activity is more likely to
occur when three elements converge in time and space: a likely offender, a suitable target, and
absence of capable guardians. A likely offender is someone who would engage in crime or delin-
quency given the opportunity (Cohen & Felson, 1979). Since delinquent behavior increases in
prevalence during the teen years (Farrington, 1986; Lauritsen, 1998; Steffensmeier, Allan, Harer,
& Streifel, 1989), this label could apply to a number of juveniles. A suitable target could be a
physical victim, desirable commodity, or perhaps a desirable activity. Guardians are individuals,
circumstances, or even objects like security cameras that protect the target or leave the impression
that the target is protected (Cohen & Felson, 1979). In the absence of guardians, targets are
Using this framework, juvenile curfews would, theoretically, be expected to reduce crime. By
restricting the hours during which juveniles can be in public, the number of would-be offenders is
likely to be reduced. Since juveniles are also vulnerable to victimization, curfew restrictions could
reduce the number of would-be victims frequenting public spaces during specified hours. In other
words, curfews would reduce the number of suitable targets. As stated by Baltimore officials:
The increase in juvenile delinquency has been caused in part by the large number of minors who are
permitted to remain in public places and in certain establishments during night hours without adult
supervision, and during daylight hours at times when, by law, they are required to attend school. (The
Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 2014, p. 80)
In this statement, the absence of adult and school supervision is consistent with the absence of
capable guardians under routine activities theory. Juvenile curfew laws prohibit juveniles from being
unsupervised in public places during certain hours, thereby limiting situations where guardians are
absent. Further, the laws restrict juveniles from frequenting public spaces when guardians of

property might be limited or absent. Many businesses, for instance, are closed through the night.
Though security cameras and other measures may be in place as guardians, the extended curfew
limits juvenile access to these venues at times when they are most vulnerable to theft, damage, or
other crime due to limited guardianship. By extending the hours during which juveniles are pro-
hibited to be in public spaces, Baltimore’s change in curfew statutes would, in theory, be expected to
reduce crime. However, there are a number of challenges involved in implementation of either new
or revised statutes that must be considered.
Challenges With Implementation
Unfortunately, curfew laws in practice do not generally target the times of day when the coalescence
of a likely offender, a suitable target, and absence of capable guardians is most likely. On school
days, juvenile violent offending peaks just after the end of the school day, at approximately 3 p.m.,
and declines thereafter (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2014). Rates of
offending after 9 p.m., the period of time affected by many curfews, are actually lower than those in
the early morning and midmorning (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2014).
According to one study, property crime offending by juveniles actually peaked before and during
school hours on school days, not during the evening (Gottfredson & Soule´, 2005). On nonschool
days, violent juvenile offending gradually rises through the day and peaks between 7 p.m. and 9
p.m., declining thereafter (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2014). Across
both school and nonschool days, only about 15% of juvenile violent offending occurs between the
hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2014). As these
figures demonstrate, curfew laws may not be effective in practice if they are not targeting the typical
periods when juvenile offending occurs. In the case of Baltimore, even the more restrictive hours are
missing the peak crime periods for this age-group.
Another challenge to implementation is enforcement. In Baltimore, youth violating curfew are
transported either to their homes or to youth connection centers where they are interviewed and
held until a parent or guardian arrives (Wenger & Broadwater, 2014). Upon questioning, these
centers attempt to identify the needs of the youth and family that may benefit from treatment or
services. These efforts require funding, training, staffing, and other resources. These demands, not
uncommon for curfews in other areas, may limit the degree to which juvenile curfew laws can
truly be enforced. In 1997, the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 23% of cities with curfews
reported problems...

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