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San Diego City Council: Stop Curfew Sweeps in San Diego, California
By Cathy Mendonca, Aaron Leaf /

What are curfew sweeps?
Curfew sweeps are organized deployments of teams of officers to arrest youth under the age of 18 on the street during curfew hours between 10 pm and 6am. Youth are taken to a make shift detention center at Cherokee Point Elementary School and parents are called to pick them up.

Curfews sweeps criminalize innocent low income youth
Regrettably to date, thousands of innocent youth have been arrested and detained, forced to pay large fees or attend a diversion program, for a fee. The overwhelming majority of youth were committing no crime at the time of their arrest. For most, this is their first contact with any type of law enforcement and for many the experience has a lasting negative effect.

Curfew sweeps do not keep youth safe nor do they reduce juvenile crime
There is no support for the hypothesis that jurisdictions with curfews experience lower crime levels, accelerated youth crime reduction, or lower rates of juvenile violent death than jurisdictions without curfews. In Houston, a curfew was introduced, and youth crime went down by 22%. But in New York, where no curfew exists, youth crime went down 30%. In Detroit and New Orleans, youth crime increased after curfews were introduced. And in San Francisco, youth crime went down after a curfew was repealed.

Curfew sweeps racially discriminate
These sweeps disproportionately target youth of color, and further contribute to pushing them into the prison systems. In San Diego, Latino and black youth make up 74% of the juvenile population in juvenile facilities. In San Diego, curfew sweeps are held bimonthly in City Heights and other communities of color in southeast San Diego compared to infrequent or nonexistent sweeps in other areas of the city. Mira Mesa for example has a higher crime rate than City Heights however there are no regular sweeps there.

Curfew sweeps usurp the rights of parents
The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that curfew sweeps violate rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. They ruled that these were “fundamental” parental rights. in past California curfew law cases the Court of Appeals ruled “ The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture [them] and direct [their] destiny have the right and the high duty, to recognize and prepare [them] for additional obligations.”

Curfew sweeps are unconstitutional
Curfew measures violate the 1st, 4th, 9th, and 14th amendment constitutional rights of children and parents.In 1997, in a federal case addressing the issue of curfews, Nunez v. San Diego, 114 F.3d 935, 949 (9th Cir. 1997), the Court of Appeals ruled that a juvenile curfew ordinance violated the fundamental right of minors to move about freely. In the case of a D.C. curfew Act, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled curfews to be “flatly unconstitutional”.In the case of a D.C. curfew Act, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled curfews to be “flatly unconstitutional”

According to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), curfew enforcement is often ineffective and unnecessarily funnels large numbers of non delinquent youth into a criminal justice system that is already inundated with alleged offenders. In addition, some opponents cite a lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of curfew legislation. According to the literature review conducted by Ruefle and Reynolds, little or no recent evidence indicates that curfew initiatives have an effect on juvenile crime, nor has research addressed the impact of curfews and their enforcement on the criminal justice system as a whole.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argues that curfew measures violate the constitutional rights of children and parents. Legal challenges to the constitutionality of curfew laws are most often based on the 1st, 4th, 9th, and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, according to a recent report by OJJDP. Opponents of curfew ordinances are concerned with the restrictive nature of these laws and the limitations on a youth's first amendment right to free speech and association. Others argue that curfews give law enforcement excessive power to detain children without probable cause and subject them to police questioning in violation of the fourth amendment's guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. Additional legal challenges to curfew laws have been based on the ninth amendment, which has been interpreted as providing a privacy right applicable to parents rearing children. Yet other critics argue that curfews violate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by establishing a suspect classification based solely on the age of a group of individuals.Some groups, like NCCD, fear that this classification may result in a disparate enforcement of curfew initiatives, to the detriment of minority youth. Further, some court cases have struck down curfew laws because they are vague and overreaching, not because they violate fundamental rights.


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