The Marshall Project

The Curfew Myth

How a ‘90s panic spawned an anti-crime measure that doesn’t make you safer.

It’s a summer ritual in many American cities — declaring a juvenile curfew to keep troublemaking teenagers off the streets. This summer at least one city—Austin—has decided not to sound the alarm.

The Austin Police Department’s assistant chief, Troy Gay, told The Marshall Project, “We looked at the evidence and decided it was time to discard the curfew law; it wasn't making an impact on juvenile victimization.” The evidence was a report drafted by a consortium of community groups that banded together to challenge Austin’s curfew law in 2017. Police Chief Brian Manley was persuaded, and asked the City Council to rescind the juvenile curfew law.

Juvenile curfew laws are ubiquitous and deeply entrenched. The Clinton Administration issued a recommending the use of juvenile curfew laws to address the “rising juvenile delinquency and victimization rates” of the 1990s. By 2009, with populations greater than 180,000 had enacted curfew laws. They remain an

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