"No, we don't want to arrest children," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in May 2022, after imposing new curfews for minors in public spaces. "If we have to because they're breaking the law, we will.” She’s drawn significant community uproar.
And for good reason – juvenile curfews don’t actually work, and they’re rooted in this disturbing scheme.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration escalated the use of curfews with their adoption of the infamous – and false – “super-predator” theory.
The frenzied war on “predatory” Black youth meant a range of punishments, from getting charged like adults to being criminalized for being out too late at night.
But research shows that these curfews DON’T stop violence. Still, by 2009, 84% of cities with populations bigger than 180,000 had set up curfew laws, even though they've been proven to be ineffective. Why? And what are these kids doing out after the streetlights come on anyway?
Black youth work jobs, hang out with friends, and simply exist. These curfews create unnecessary tension between police and youth, putting a target on their backs – sometimes even making overall violence INCREASE!
Juvenile curfews don’t uplift Black youth or keep them safe – when authorities enforce them, that’s them using our youth as an easy scapegoat for local violence. But our cities deserve real solutions. “Don’t want to arrest children?” Then don’t!