Daytime curfews, while perhaps popular, are bad policy

Local governments, from Kennesaw, Georgia to Benicia, California, are jumping on the curfew bandwagon as a way to tighten control of the citizenry. While late-night/early-morning curfews for children have been employed for decades as a way to limit gang and other youth-based violence — often unsuccessfully — the latest, 21st-Century iteration is to extend the concept to daytime hours. For example, city leaders in Kennesaw recently extended the hours during which a person under 18 years of age may lawfully traverse its streets and other public areas to include the hours from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM (those 17 and under already were prohibited from being seen in public without a good excuse anytime after midnight and before 5:00 AM). Now in this particular city — whose website proudly proclaims itself one of the “10 Best Towns for Families” because it is so family-friendly — a young person is able to appear in public free from suspicion and without being subject to detention by the police, for only 13 hours during any 24-hour day. Gives new meaning to what is considered “friendly.”

It’s not only small towns that are deciding that someone under 18 is inherently suspect and subject to arrest for doing nothing more than walking down a street in broad daylight. For example, the Texas megalopolis of Dallas is to vote on a similar ordinance this month. Unlike nightime curfews, which are almost always premised on at least a colorable (though not necessarily sound) argument that a teenager walking down a street in the wee hours of the morning is evidence of problematic behavior, banning an entire segment of the population from being seen in public in the middle of the day carries no such credibility. The best argument that a proponent of the Dallas ordinance could come up with was that such a curfew will “help” police crack down on crimes “associated with truancy.”

It’s clear that the rationale for daytime curfews is really nothing more than another “preemptive” government power.

Yes, prohibiting people of whatever age from appearing in puiblic will in a sense “assist police” in the same way that banning an entire class of people from driving may assist in reducing automobile accidents. But such an approach, while making the job of law enforcement perhaps easier, turns the notion of a presumption of innocence on its head. Moreover, such laws reflect an approach to law enforcement based not on limited police powers targetted at actual evidence of criminal activity, but rather a system that criminalizes an entire class of persons simply to catch a much smaller group that actually breaks the law. This happens to be the approach favored by gun control advocates, for example, who seek to limit the ability of all citizens to defend themselves, simply because a tiny percentage of firearms owners abuse the right to keep and bear arms. Further example of such preemptive law enforcement can be seen in the notion championed by the federal government in recent years that because an occasional phone call might contain evidence of possible criminal acctions, entire classes of phone calls (such as all international calls) shall be subject to warrantless surveillance.

This philosophy of governance is deeply destructive of our fundamental civil liberties, and does not even represent a sound criteria for law enforcement. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it seems to be more and more the preferred course for governments at all levels.

19 comments Add your comment

Road Scholar

April 6th, 2009
9:44 am

They should be in school! If they do not like school, they should be placed in a Military style classroom setting to show them the alternative and give them some personal discipline. Truancy laws should be enforced. Does the law allow them out on weekends? In the custody of an adult? If not how can they go to church on Sunday? Buy ammo for their guns? (Doesn’t Kennesaw still have the mandatory gun ownership law?)

Jefferson

April 6th, 2009
10:31 am

Freedom is scary to some. Kudos Bob.

PinkoNeoConLibertarian

April 6th, 2009
12:25 pm

I might be mistaken, but I think you meant to state:

“For example, city leaders in Kennesaw recently extended the hours during which a person under 18 years of age may NOT lawfully traverse its streets and other public areas to include the hours from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM”

But regardless…I am at a loss for words. In my beliefs this is so inherently wrong and unconstitutional (freedom of assembly anyone?) as to be abhorrent. So much for due process too. Hey, I’ve got an idea…let’s just declare martial law 24/7/365 and be done with it. That even gets rid of that pesky Habeas Corpus thing.

Eleanor Rigby

April 6th, 2009
3:48 pm

How long until they make a curfew for anyone? That will surely cut down on crime. The American people have spoken. They had a chance to stand up and demand an end to the ever encroaching government but instead chose more of the same. The only difference between Democrats and Republicans is whose freedoms they will take away. The American people never met a law they didn’t like. It is my hope that these young people who cannot live their lives in freedom will grow up to vote Libertarian. I hope I live long enough to see the day the American people wake up and realize with freedom comes responsibility and it’s worth it! By the way, I’m the one who voted for you Bob. :)

Eric

April 6th, 2009
4:48 pm

This is a deplorable law!! So what if teenagers walk outside any time of day? No one has the right to assume criminal activity. And if these kids are not in school, they are missing out and will pay for it in other ways. If, as an adult, I were brought into a curfew, I would refuse. Once again, Mr. Barr points out the encroachment of Big Brother–please keep us informed. You already have my vote!!

clyde

April 6th, 2009
5:18 pm

Last week I watched a well organized raid on a store by about 40 young people on their lunch break from a nearby school.They came in a bunch,all at once,they positioned themselves quickly,two grabbed some candy bars and clowned around paying for them.Several others blocked the clerk’s view.The rest filled back packs with soda,cookies and candy bars.One wears a back pack,two others fill it.In less than two minutes they were gone.They streamed out and returned to school with their plunder.Any wonder people want a curfew?

Joshua

April 6th, 2009
9:18 pm

What about schools with open campus policies whose students want to go grab a sandwich at lunch?

I agree with Bob Barr here. Punishing innocent people is bad policy.

Vexorg

April 6th, 2009
9:41 pm

All of you liberal are sniveling about the “rights” of teenagers are forgetting one small detail….the only “rights” a CHILD has, is the right to food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and an education. Any other “rights” granted are the purview of the CHILD’S parent!

More problems regarding our youth would be solved overnight if a child’s Mother and Father started acting like PARENTS instead of “family unit partners” or “buddies”. A family is NOT a democracy; if the parents can be held legally responsible for a child’s illegal acts, then the PARENT reserves the right to set limits on the child’s behaviors.

If I have learned anything about “Modern” Parenting, its that the “enlighted” people writing books and giving lectures on the “correct” way a child should be raised….usually DON’T have any children of their own!

noncitizen2009 at gmail.com

April 7th, 2009
8:25 am

I recently learned that yet another criminal government in Florida has thoroughly demonstrated that they are anti-American idiots by enacting an ordinance that outlaws people who are listed on any Sex Offender Registry from going to the beaches, parks, zoos, libraries, and similar locations. The criminal regime which has done this is the Lee County government. They were encouraged to pass the ordinance by the County’s criminal Sheriff.

Their illegal ordinance applies to everyone, regardless of if a person is on probation or parole or not, and regardless of when a person completed his/her legally prescribed sentence (literally could’ve been decades ago). People who support these laws are not only uninformed and stupid, they are immoral and completely un-American.

Jimbo

April 7th, 2009
10:06 am

Vexorg, at 17 I was emancipated and had already been to basic training for the Army Reserves (split option soldier). I had a GED, a job, and a military calling, I couldn’t have done that with cops on my back all the time. Are you saying I didn’t have any rights?

clyde

April 7th, 2009
10:44 am

Jimbo,You had the right to salute anything that moved and to paint anything that didn’t.

DawgBite

April 7th, 2009
11:09 am

I’m all for banning superspeeders from Atlanta’s interstates.

Redneck Convert

April 7th, 2009
11:11 am

Well, they need to give these little punks a good beating upside the head and shoulders. Everybody knows when you see a kid without his parents there’s trouble in the making. Besides, they can’t buy a beer when they’re 18 so why should they be allowed to walk around when they’re under 21? They need to be at home or school, not out bothering decent folk.

German Shepherd

April 7th, 2009
1:26 pm

It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23. You see what happens when man tries to come up with is own rules. We truly are silly people aren’t we?

J. Turbin

April 7th, 2009
1:53 pm

Enter your comments here

Logical Dude

April 7th, 2009
2:19 pm

Well, this is a result of the non-use of common sense in our laws. I refer to Prohibition as an example of this. You just outlaw (enter shady item here) just because a small element leads to (enter illegal activity here).
This basically criminilizes activity which most people know will hurt nobody.

These prohibited activities include: alcohol, drugs, gambling, censorship, crossing the border, carrying lots of money, gun control, and now includes curfews.
These activities in and of themselves hurt nobody. Alcohol and drugs in moderation are okay, but in excess for a very few lead to violence and crime.
Having a poker game at home with a bunch of friends hurts nobody, but the lure of some easy money can lead a very small minority to crime.
Someone reading banned literature hurts nobody. Now, if they act in a criminal way based on the literature, punish the criminal, not the literature.
Crossing a border into the US now gives the government reason to search with no cause. So watch out if your computer happens to have inappropriate images saved. If not, you still may not get the computer back.
A report from last year had authorities stop a person carrying 40,000 USD in cash. There was no other reason to suspect him of anything. But because some drug runners carry loads of cash, just having lots of cash in your possession warrants suspicion.
Guns are banned in many situations, some common sense, but most because of the fear of a small minority who would use them for illegal purposes.
Curfews are another government intrusion that punishes the innocent as well as the guilty.

In all of these cases, there you suspicion or punishment of the innocent. Where is the common sense in that? Where is the Liberty?

Logical Dude

April 7th, 2009
3:20 pm

Darn it, I had a great post that seems to have disappeared in the inter-ether-net.

Vexorg

April 8th, 2009
5:26 pm

Jimbo, what’s the matter…..were you CAUGHT “keeping it real” and living the THUG (a.k.a. CRIMINAL) lifestyle because your Mother and Father NEGLECTED their duties as parents? The ONLY people I see whining about cops are the ones out “Perpatrating”…Waaaaa, the evil cops are picking on lil ol me because I am a wannabe criminal attempting to establish my “rep”…Waaaaaaa!

Wow…so you went to basic training as a reservist. What do you want, a medal or a chest to pin it on? I would suggest that you go down to the local VFW or American Legion Hall and take a look at some REAL heros, the ones that SERVED in the combat hellholes of Europe, The Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, and even more recent conflicts. Tell them that you proudly completed basic training and what a “real” warrior you are!

If this current trend of NEGLECT and IRRESPONSIBILITY continues, the government will eventually step in and take control. And dear “Jimbo”…if you think the police “hassling” you is bad, wait until the obamunists pass even more laws controlling your life…..because, obama’s people are smarter and know better what’s good for you – I know this, because they told me!

And it has already happened…irresponsible liberals with their “enlighted” philosophies on “new” and “modern” methods of education have turned our once great schools into to cesspools of minimum performance and undisciplined criminal hellholes where the average student fears for their safety daily, and have become nothing more than 8 hours of state-sanctioned day care.

Don’t worry “Jimbo” and all of you other fellow-traveller liberals…the obamunist are now here to save the day from all of us “evil” conservatives. HAH! 100+ days into his administration, and obama has accomplished the typical liberal agenda: NOTHING!

logic

January 11th, 2010
2:00 pm

nobody is saying conservatists are evil here but you Vexorg