The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut has asked the Colchester Board of Selectmen to reject a youth curfew proposed for certain public areas of town. In a letter, the ACLU warned that such a curfew would violate the constitutional rights of young people and their parents.
"The curfew would threaten the rights to freedom of assembly, due process, free speech and equal protection guaranteed in the Constitution," said David McGuire, staff attorney for the ACLU of Connecticut. "It would punish young people who are not even suspected of doing anything wrong and deprive parents of the right to set boundaries for their own children."
The curfew has been proposed as a means to combat vandalism. We could find little evidence that vandalism is becoming more common in Colchester or that minors are disproportionately responsible for the incidents that have occurred. According to the Connecticut Uniform Crime Reports, police cleared 117 vandalism cases in Colchester between 2004 and 2010 but only one in four corresponded to a juvenile arrest.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit noted a similar lack of proof that "the population targeted by the ordinance represented that part of the population causing trouble or that was being victimized" when it overturned a youth curfew in Vernon, Connecticut, in 2003. The proposed curfew ordinance in Colchester would be no more likely to withstand a legal challenge.
Nor would it have the intended effect. Research has consistently shown curfews to be ineffective at preventing crime by and against young people, and some studies have found that crime rates may actually increase over time after a curfew is enacted.
Instead of adopting a curfew that won't work but will threaten residents' civil liberties, the town should focus on parental involvement programs, improved enforcement techniques and community services.
-- August 29, 2012
Norwich Bulletin: Curfew plan draws mixed reactions