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Southern California Voices / A Forum For Community
Issues | Youth Opinion

Does Protection Mean Loss of Freedom?

June 14, 1997

Strict curfews prohibiting teens from loitering after 10 p.m. have been credited with reducing juvenile crime in scores of California cities. This week, a federal appeals court decision overturned a San Diego curfew ordinance on grounds that it was too vague, abridged teens' free speech rights and usurped parents' rights as guardians. The decision may affect similar curfew laws statewide. JIM BLAIR asked area teenagers their views about the need for and effectiveness of curfews.


17, senior, Irvine High School

I do appreciate that law enforcement is trying to maintain the low level of crime committed by and against minors in Irvine. There isn't much gang activity and that's something that the city prides itself on.

My biggest issue with the curfew is that it's so sporadically enforced. I've never been stopped for violating the curfew and I don't know anybody else who has. There are probably other laws that can be passed that would accomplish the same thing but don't single out minors. Why can't there be a general loitering law? It doesn't seem to follow that minors need to be singled out.

I wouldn't say I want to see the curfew law enforced more strictly, but I think there's a problem with having something on the books if it's not going to be used. I think a loitering law for the general public is very appropriate.


16, junior, North High School, Riverside

Kids under 18 don't need to be in the streets at late hours, especially when there's school. But I don't think the curfew is very effective because the police can't go around stopping everyone who looks young. Also, there are a lot of kids under 18 who look much older.

I wouldn't say I was a bad kid, but I used to run the streets a lot. And at least once a week the cops would stop me and my friends and ask what we were doing out and for identification. Most times we would just lie about our age. I look a lot older than I am so I'd get off pretty easily.

The curfew doesn't put much fear into anyone. I don't think anyone cares until they get stopped and then I think they only care while they're in police custody.

I think there are people with sincere motives for supporting curfews, looking out for the best interests of people. Most crimes or people driving drunk happen at night.

I think curfew laws need to have strong punishment, like a fine. And parents should also have to pay a fine because it's their responsibility to make sure that their children are home on time.


16, junior, Culver City High School

I've been affected very much by the Culver City curfew law. It's 10 p.m. and that it makes it really hard. The rule is if you're coming home it's OK; but the police still stop you, not so much to harass you, but to ask you questions.

I don't think it's necessarily right that they do this. I know it's for our own safety; but if they do it for teenagers I think they should do it for everybody. I don't think it's fair that they just stop teenagers, because it's not just teenagers who go out and make trouble.

If I were a parent, I'm sure the curfew would help; but if the parent were parenting correctly, then their kids wouldn't be staying out until 2 or 3 in the morning. It should be the parents' duty to know where their kids are.

The curfew law was enacted for our safety because there were so many things going on at night that parents wanted us protected from. But in trying to protect us, they took away our freedoms.

If they want us to learn responsibility, then they should give us the responsibility to make it home safely.


17, senior, Polytechnic High School, Long Beach

I think it's mandatory that we have curfews, most definitely Fridays and Saturdays, especially in residential areas because if you get loud kids going from party to party through the neighborhood that's not really fair to the people who live there.

But when kids go to the movies and things like that, I don't think there should be a curfew. I think kids should be put on the honor system. Kids should be trusted; but if they violate that trust then they should be individually placed on a curfew. I know that would probably be hard to do.

If you raise your child with morals, have rules and your child respects your rules, of course you're not going to catch your kid walking down the street to a party talking loud or being obnoxious or rude.

But I don't think curfews are fair for those who are responsible, who don't cause trouble, who are not in gangs or doing graffiti and things like that.


18, senior, John Marshall High School, L.A.

A curfew is necessary because people 18 and under shouldn't be on the streets by themselves at night.

Once, we had had dinner at my aunt's and were there late. As we were leaving, my aunt told me to wait for her in the car outside. When I was walking outside, a police car pulled over and asked me what I was doing. Since my aunt was there, it was OK.

Many people don't like the curfew because when they want to go somewhere and it's late, they can't go. I have the same problem. There are times when I would like to be out late. I'm not going to do anything bad, but we can't be on the street.

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