Home > Juvenile curfew effects on criminal behavior and victimization. A systematic review.

Wilson, David B and Gill, Charlotte and Olaghere, Ajima and McGlure, David (2016) Juvenile curfew effects on criminal behavior and victimization. A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 12, (1), pp. 1-97. DOI: 10.4073/csr.2016.3.

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A juvenile curfew has common sense appeal: keep youth at home during the late night and early morning hours and you will prevent them from committing a crime or being a victim of a crime. In addition, the potential for fines or other sanctions deter youth from being out in a public place during curfew hours. Juvenile curfews have received numerous legal challenges. The constitutional basis for infringing the rights of youth rests on the assumption that they reduce juvenile crime and victimization. This review synthesizes the evidence on the effectiveness of juvenile curfews in reducing criminal behavior and victimization among youth.

What studies are included?
Included studies test the effect of an official state or local policy intended to restrict or otherwise penalize a juvenile's presence outside the home during certain times of day. This must have been a general preventive measure directed at all youth within a certain age range and not a sanction imposed on a specific youth. Twelve quantitative evaluations of the effects of curfews on youth criminal behavior or victimization are included in the review.

Do curfews reduce crime and victimization?
The pattern of evidence suggests that juvenile curfews are ineffective at reducing crime and victimization. The average effect on juvenile crime during curfew hours was slightly positive - that is a slight increase in crime - and close to zero for crime during all hours. Both effects were not significant. Similarly, juvenile victimization also appeared unaffected by the imposition of a curfew ordinance. However, all the studies in the review suffer from some limitations that make it difficult to draw firm conclusions. Nonetheless, the lack of any credible evidence in their favour suggests that any effect is likely to be small at best and that curfews are unlikely to be a meaningful solution to juvenile crime and disorder. Other studies have suggested curfews may be ineffective as juvenile crime is concentrated in hours before and after school, and that under-resourced police forces focus on more urgent demands than enforcing curfews.

What do the results mean?
Contrary to popular belief, the evidence suggests that juvenile curfews do not produce the expected benefits. The study designs used in this research make it difficult to draw clear conclusions, so more research is needed to replicate the findings. However, many of the biases likely to occur in existing studies would make it more, rather than less, likely that we would conclude curfews are effective. For example, most of these studies were conducted during a time when crime was dropping throughout the United States. Therefore, our findings suggest that either curfews don’t have any effect on crime, or the effect is too small to be identified in the research available.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Review, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Identification #
DOI: 10.4073/csr.2016.3
97 p.
Page Range
pp. 1-97
The Campbell Collaboration

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