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Do curfews really accomplish anything?

Monday, May 23, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Last week

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety John O’Malley and Chicago Police Department Lt. Michael Kapustianyk told alderpeople the expansion and extension of the curfew would give officials another tool to fight crime.

O’Malley was repeatedly pressed by members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus to share evidence backed up by data that teen curfew laws had been effective in reducing violence or crime. O’Malley acknowledged he had no evidence to show that the proposal has worked in other cities and states.

O’Malley told Martin that he was not familiar with a study of the impact of the decision by Washington, D.C., officials to move its teen curfew from midnight to 11 p.m. in 2015. That change increased gun incidents by 150% during the additional hour of curfew, according to the study.

* The Marshall Project

A systematic review of research literature on juvenile curfew programs was published in 2016 by the Campbell Collaboration, a nonprofit that synthesizes research studies for policy-makers. Campbell examined over 7,000 studies on juvenile curfews and synthesized the 12 most rigorous studies. The report stated that, “evidence suggests that juvenile curfews are ineffective at reducing crime and victimization. The average effect on juvenile crime during curfew hours was slightly positive — that is a slight increase in crime — and close to zero for crime during all hours. Similarly, juvenile victimization also appeared unaffected by the imposition of a curfew ordinance.”

The Campbell findings followed a systematic review of juvenile curfew literature published in 2003 by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. That review found that “empirical studies of the impact of curfew laws failed to support the argument that curfews reduce crime and criminal victimization.”

Why are juvenile curfew laws ineffective? For one thing, the studies found that they damage already-strained relationships between police and youth of color and in some instances have “blowback” effects, increasing juvenile victimization or overall crime.

Another factor is that on empty streets there are no witnesses. Urban activist Jane Jacobs theorized that well-populated streets are safe streets; deserted streets invite crime.

A study published in 2015 tested the effect of Washington D.C.’s juvenile curfew on gun violence. Using ShotSpotter audio sensor data, the authors found that gunfire incidents were significantly more frequent when the curfew was in effect. Curfews remove bystanders and witnesses from the streets, reducing their deterrent effects on street crime.

* From one of the co-authors of that ShotSpotter study

Curfews incentivize law-abiding citizens to be at home instead of out on the streets.

* Today

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s executive order turning back the clock and age of Chicago’s seldom-enforced curfew law — from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m., for minors younger than 18 instead of under 17 — will not have the weight of law behind it. At least not for a few days.

Two mayoral allies — Emma Mitts (37th) and Nick Sposato (38th) — made certain of it on Monday by using a parliamentary maneuver to postpone a final vote on the mayor’s curfew ordinance after a barrage of criticism from all sides. That sets the stage for a final vote on Wednesday.

Aldermanic allies and enemies alike have condemned the crackdown as a toothless and desperate response to a deadly outbreak of youth violence in the downtown area that prompted a mass shooting outside a McDonald’s at Chicago Avenue and State Street and the fatal shooting of a teenager at Millennium Park.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), a mayoral challenger and Lightfoot’s most outspoken critic on the council, has further warned that demoralized, inundated and overworked Chicago police officers will, once again, be yanked out of neighborhood CPD districts “so we can have the curfew patrol downtown.”


  1. - Candy Dogood - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:09 pm:

    ===Do curfews really accomplish anything?===

    Depends on the kind of curfew. Is it due to being in a war zone, like in Ukraine with the curfews with Kyiv? Sure.

    ===Curfews incentivize law-abiding citizens to be at home instead of out on the streets.===

    Interesting thought, but what about the citizens that the curfew doesn’t apply to that get harassed by the police?

    ===and in some instances have “blowback” effects===

    Imagine a police force that is already known for murdering innocent and unarmed youths, for attacking and harassing innocent people, and then give them an excuse to harass people because they “look young” which might as well be an excuse for them to harass whatever target of their bigotry they seek to harass.

    This accomplishes nothing. They might as well just implement stop and frisk if they want to harass young black men and pretend that it’s constitutional.

  2. - Langhorne - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:10 pm:

    Curfews are the term limits of crime reduction.

    Just too intuitively attractive for the believers to entertain any other conclusion, regardless of the evidence.

  3. - Mom - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:11 pm:

    Mom always said, ‘nothing good ever happens after midnight’.

  4. - sal-says - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:15 pm:

    == …theorized that well-populated streets are safe streets; deserted streets invite crime. ==

    Not convinced that the ‘theory’ is still true. A lot of well populated streets are crime locations these days. Loop, MagMile used to be quiet, full of folks & relatively low in crime.

  5. - lake county democrat - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:24 pm:

    Ok, but the research isn’t in Chicago - are there any other large cities whose downtown is experiencing the same things (I’m asking genuinely, not rhetorically)? It seems like Chicago has some unique dynamics. If nothing else, if it “incentivizes law abiding citizens to stay home” then there’s going to be a lot fewer people downtown and at any late-night pop-up gatherings.

  6. - charles in charge - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:26 pm:

    With her ill-fated gang forfeiture ordinance proposal and now this (to name only two examples), Mayor Lightfoot has essentially conceded that she has no real answers on public safety and is prepared to squander her dwindling political capital on gimmicks that are not just ineffective but actually harmful.

  7. - Anonymous - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:31 pm:

    Illusory. The State’s Attorney doesn’t prosecute shootings and we expect people to fear being arrested for curfew violations?

  8. - hahahaha - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:35 pm:

    That moving the (already unenforced) curfew up one hour was the Big Idea that Lori and Company came up with tells you all you need to know about her as a mayor.

  9. - Miso - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:38 pm:

    The State’s Attorney doesn’t prosecute shootings and we expect people to fear being arrested for curfew violations?

    The state attorney doesn’t prosecute curfew violations because it’s the City Law Departments job.

    I assume you’re talking about Foxx.

  10. - Miso - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:41 pm:

    harass people because they “look young”

    Maybe they can harass those that shoot 10, killing 2? Maybe that?

  11. - VerySmallRocks - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:42 pm:

    Curfews make crabby people who vote feel good and empowered.

  12. - Blue Dog - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:49 pm:

    I would be in favor of stop and frisk.

  13. - Juvenal - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:50 pm:

    “Simple solutions are usually neither.” - Capfax

    The purpose here is to blame victims. If someone gets shot after dark, it will now automatically be their fault for being where they were not supposed to be, when they were not supposed to be there. Not a sign the mayor and CPD are failing at a core function.

  14. - Narc - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:56 pm:

    I heard someone say the point of curfews like this isn’t to reduce violence, it’s to get it away from downtown and tourist areas like Millenium Park. Basically, relocate it to like the south side, where it “belongs.”

  15. - Amalia - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 12:59 pm:

    yeah, well, look up when the shootings and murders happen….mostly at night. if one stays in, one is not in the line of fire, or out firing. also put the curfew announcements back on tv like back in the day. each one of my friends knew that curfew meant get home or parents would be angry. we all knew when the curfew was.

  16. - fs - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 1:02 pm:

    == Basically, relocate it to like the south side, where it “belongs.”==

    Or in front of the McDonalds near the Mag Mile, I guess

  17. - hahahaha - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 1:02 pm:

    ==I would be in favor of stop and frisk.==

    You didn’t have to say that, we all knew already.

  18. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 1:08 pm:

    Enforcing a curfew represents a response to an intolerable situation. The root cause of the violence is not something any city can really fix - so one is left with only the ability to be reactive.

  19. - Thomas Paine - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 1:21 pm:

    I’m so old that I remember when Republicans and Conservative Democrats were arguing that it should be up to parents to decide if and when their teenagers needed adult supervision.

    I believe it was way back in 2021.

  20. - City Zen - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 1:56 pm:

    ==Curfews remove bystanders and witnesses from the streets==

    A bystander and witness is a citizen put in harm’s way. While their presence may deter crime, their presence also exponentially increases their chance of being a victim when violence occurs.

    I don’t think the curfew is a good idea, but suggesting my wandering the streets is some sort of deterrent while placing my own well-being in serious jeopardy is not a convincing argument.

  21. - cermak_rd - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 2:04 pm:

    You and your friends were blessed to have parent(s) who would be angry if you violated curfew. At least some of the perpetrators are people whose parent(s) are apparently completely indifferent to what the kids are doing.

  22. - Anyone Remember - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 2:14 pm:

    ===I would be in favor of stop and frisk.===

    And … a National ID Card and law enforcement being able to say “Papers, Please!” ??

  23. - walker - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 2:37 pm:

    “they damage already-strained relationships between police and youth”


  24. - SaulGoodman - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 4:40 pm:

    **The State’s Attorney doesn’t prosecute shootings**


    **we expect people to fear being arrested for curfew violations?**

    As pointed out above, the two are not connected to each other, as the SA doesn’t deal with curfew violations.

  25. - low level - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 5:14 pm:

    Last week I said that from everything I could see, John O’Malley is an amateur. After reading this WTTW article today, Im convinced.

  26. - Chicagonk - Monday, May 23, 22 @ 5:38 pm:

    There are existing laws on the books - There just isn’t any real enforcement of them. I’m not sure why CPD isn’t arresting those that are fighting (I thought assault was a crime). There is no strategy right now between CPD and the CCSAO on how to deal with juvenile crime.

  27. - get real - Tuesday, May 24, 22 @ 10:19 am:

    ==Last week I said that from everything I could see, John O’Malley is an amateur. After reading this WTTW article today, Im convinced.==

    totally unqualified. so: who hired him? Lightfoot

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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