Will Atlanta Curfew Cut Crime or Just Make Adults Feel Better?


Atlanta says it will enforce a longstanding teen curfew ordinance barring anyone younger than 17 from being outside without adult supervision from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from midnight to 6 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Proponents say the laws reduce teen crime and protect teens from danger, while critics believe the rules do little more than give a false sense of security to nervous adults. “There’s pretty much no question that [the ordinances] aren’t effective in either reducing crime or preventing harm to young people,” says Mike Males of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. “It’s basically designed to make people feel better about using a city at night, and it’s an artificial thing,” he said. “It's a psychological law — not an effective policy.”

Some law enforcement officials say experience tells them the curfews are needed. While many said it’s difficult to track juvenile vs. adult crime, they do see an increase in crimes such as car burglaries when school is out of session. Sgt. Dana Pierce of the Cobb County Police Department said calls for police service rise in the summer, particularly as jittery homeowners report groups of teens roaming the streets. “Part of that is because of the juveniles out there aimlessly, bored and with nothing to do,” he said. “And we know that when someone is bored, they're probably going to get into trouble.” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said patrols will be stepped up at city parks, pools, recreation centers, and potential trouble spots. Repeated curfew violations will result in tough penalties for the parents, potentially costing them a $1,000 fine and making them subject to 60 days of jail or community service.

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