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Posted at 11:02 AM ET, 07/27/2011

Do curfew laws actually work?

My colleagues Michael Laris and Dan Morse have a terrific story today about a hearing on proposed teen curfew laws in Montgomery County. Quick background: Lawmakers are tired of teens and gangs up to no good, particularly in downtown Silver Spring, and some think a nightly curfew will curtail the problem.

Abagail Burman, sitting next to Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger, testifies Tuesday on the proposed curfew (Katherine Frey)
The story contains some terrific reporting, but the detail that really caught my eye was this quote from Charlie Carter, a 16-year-old from Olney, on the subject of curfews and misbehaving teens: “Especially if they are engaging in blatantly illegal activities, why would another law stop them from breaking another law?”

Good point. Carter got me wondering: What do we know about the success of curfews on crime?

Answer: Curfews apparently don’t work well, if at all.

A quick search through some academic studies on Google Scholar produced results such as this, from the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: “The evidence does not support the argument that curfews prevent crime and victimization. Juvenile crime and victimization are most likely to remain unchanged after implementation of curfew laws.”

Also,, a consortium of researchers and reporters who fact-check politician’s claims, recently awarded a “mostly true” badge on its truth-o-meter to this quote from criminologist Mike Males: “There’s pretty much no question that [the curfew ordinances] aren’t effective in either reducing crime or preventing harm to young people.” Politifact’s summary of the research is here.

Do you think teen curfews will help reduce teen crime at night? Vote in the poll. And let’s start a discussion in the comments thread below. Remember: Be civil.

By  |  11:02 AM ET, 07/27/2011

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