Finding 'Effectiveness' Of Curfew Laws

Judge Emanuella Groves (Tony Ganzer/WCPN)
Judge Emanuella Groves (Tony Ganzer/WCPN)
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Last week, Baltimore put into place what's being touted as the 'most strict curfew in the country,' which is only slightly more strict than the curfew in Cleveland. Since about 2007, 13 and 14-year-olds must be inside here by 9:30 p.m.; 15 and 16 year-olds by 11 p.m. The issue of curfews is not without controversy, as we still see from developments in Ferguson, Missouri. Ideastream's Tony Ganzer spoke with Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Emanuella Groves, whose court deals with parents of youths involved in curfew violation cases. She says the effectiveness of curfews is hard to measure...and it's not just about police enforcement.

GROVES: “If the enforcement is not effective maybe the law itself could be more, but just, how are you getting the end result. We think that by sharing the information with Juvenile Court, they now know if a person that they have under supervision has an additional violation. We’re sharing the information now with the school district so that they can begin to identify if there are needs that are not being met, so that we can address that. And we have even pulled in the Rec department.”

GANZER: “Reading about your role, and the role of your court, it seemed to me that you were acting as a buffer between almost the school system and the justice system, because that’s one complaint or criticism of curfews that kids are introduced to the justice system or the criminal justice system too early. Is that fair to say that you’re trying to navigate that?”

GROVES: “I think that that’s probably very accurate to say, but our court can’t take credit for that. I think that the decision was made, and there has been resistance to charge the child, but to deal with the parent, because to a large degree the parent is ultimately responsible. Juvenile court they deal with instances where the behavior is egregious, so this is not egregious, but I do believe it is a warning sign. I believe that if there is not the intervention that you are going to graduate, where you will be dealt with in Juvenile Court. In the instances where there has been the intervention I think to some degree yes it has been effective, and we are addressing instances where the child is just out and out resistant.”

GANZER: “We have daytime and nighttime curfews, and in Ferguson, a lot of attention has been on the nighttime; that police, often very militarized police, with gear, are standing off against young people and other protesters at night, and it’s been violent. How do you see that situation through the eyes of someone who deals with curfew issues?”

GROVES: “I do believe, again just as my role as a parent and being very involved in my children’s school, I think whenever you have this toughness, that it can cause a resentment, and it can cause a lack of trust—there’s no relationship. And often when there’s no relationship, there’s no respect. And if you see inconsistency, and with that a simple incident can rise to the level of either the officer or the child being injured, or in instances as in Ferguson, then walking in the street has now cost this young man his life.”

GANZER: “Through all your programs, and over the last years of having the current iteration of the curfew, do you think it’s working? Have you seen improvement generally in cases of curfews, or is it pretty steady?”

GROVES: “I think we’re a work in progress, and I think it’s hard to measure even when you look at enforcement. If you see a lower number, I would hope maybe because it is, or maybe it’s because there’s not the enforcement. I would hope that you would see the impact in improvement in attendance at schools, that you would see an impact in improvement in achievement, and I think that is how you can really gauge to see whether or not it’s been effective. So we can begin to address their needs and intervene, and I think we can say enforcement is effective but it’s how you enforce.”

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