Rounding Up Criminals Is Hard. Let's Try Kids.

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As part of its much-anticipated "crime emergency" plan, D.C. has changed its curfew, and unaccompanied 16-year-olds out past 10 p.m. are now breaking the law. District teenagers may wonder what the hell a new curfew has to do with the city's "crime emergency." They might also wonder why the city is wasting resources chasing down kids in the midst of said emergency. Well, Police Chief Ramsey doesn't have answers to those questions. But he does have some parenting advice:

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday that the city had to set the new 10 p.m. curfew for youths 16 and younger because of "irresponsible" parents who don't control their children.

"You shouldn't need a curfew if you've got parents who are responsible," Ramsey said on Washington Post Radio. "But unfortunately we've got some parents here that are totally irresponsible. Their idea of raising a kid is throwing a kid out of the house and letting them straggle back in at 2 o' clock in the morning."

So there you have it: It's not that city officials want to play parent to every kid in the district. It's just that, gosh, turns out law enforcement professionals are better parents. And the problem isn't criminals as such. It's the "potential victims" who dare stand outside when criminals are likely to strike.

D.C. officials celebrate a job well done here.

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  1. All this assumes that Police Chief Ramsey is being dishonest. But that’s hard to prove. There is a case to be made that the rationale of the curfew is to reduce crime by keeping “irresponsible parents” — i.e. potential criminals — busy at home keeping their kids from sneaking out rather than out stealing and killing.

    Not that this policy is likely to work, but it does seem to have a very different logic than the somewhat paranoid write-up suggests. I’m much more partial to the view that D.C. is run by boobs, than to the view that it’s run by power-mad maniacs.

  2. I’m assuming the D.C. Police discarded the idea of making all females wear chastity belts to prevent rapes only because it would be too expensive?

  3. But Mutt, are boobs and power-mad maniacs mutually exclusive?

  4. This reminds me of the night that I very nearly struck a five-year-old in my car when he ran out into the road from between parked cars surrounding a completely unlit playground in Norfolk. It was 1 a.m.
    Point of the story – I think it is premature to say that the police are losing time or resources by rounding up these kids and sending them home. In the long run, it may save them quite a bit of time that they would have spent dealing with all the feral children running around, getting hurt etc.
    Take my libertarian card if you must, but I just can’t get excited about this.

  5. It is pretty tough to think of a legitimate reason why a kid under 16 would have for being on the streets of Washington, DC without a parent.

  6. On what planet would police *not* stop a five-year-old running around at midnight unattended if they’d seen him, curfew or not?

  7. It is pretty tough to think of a legitimate reason why a kid under 16 would have for being on the streets of Washington, DC without a parent

    Uhmm…didn’t a couple of kids get rounded up while ago just sitting on the stoop of their friend’s house??

    and DanT, your comment didn’t even mention time. Do you really not see any legitimate reason why a kid 16 and under would ever walk the streets of DC alone (like walking to school or walking to their friends house?)

    That can’t be what you meant. DC can’t be THAT Bad that its unsafe at any hour of the day for a 16 year old? And would it automatically becomes safer if the kid is 17 ?

  8. It is pretty tough to think of a legitimate reason why a kid under 16 would have for being on the streets of Washington, DC without a parent.

    Never walked home from a friend’s house after 10 o’clock when you were a kid, Dan?

  9. Remember, it is practically impossible to legally own a gun in the District. Remember that and the rediculous violent crime and murder rate in Washington the next time the gun confiscators tell you how taking your guns away is for your own protection.

  10. The curfew is ridiculously early, too. 10pm? I don’t think I even started working on my homework in highschool until midnight or 2am.

  11. and DanT, your comment didn’t even mention time. Do you really not see any legitimate reason why a kid 16 and under would ever walk the streets of DC alone (like walking to school or walking to their friends house?)

    Sorry, I did mean late at night, although I will admit that perhaps 11 or 12 o’clock might be a little more reasonable.

    That can’t be what you meant. DC can’t be THAT Bad that its unsafe at any hour of the day for a 16 year old? And would it automatically becomes safer if the kid is 17 ?

    Of course not, but age is as good as any other line that can be drawn. Certainly a 17 year-old would be safer out at night generally than a 12 year-old, at least.

  12. And my peers and I all did drugs and other bad stuff right after school, in the afternoon. You know, when the only thing on TV are those lame after school specials about keeping off drugs ‘n’ stuff.

  13. smacky, how have you lived such a reprobate life, yet still look like Miss Innocence? I was totally surprised by the unedginess of your pictures. I expected Helena Bonham Carter from Fight Club, to be honest. Or maybe a Suicide Girl 🙂

  14. A suicide girl!?!? Gross!

  15. Careful, you’ll be getting John in here ranting about the Netherlands.

  16. Pro Libertate

    Maybe there’s a portrait in her attic that reveals the whole truth. 🙂

  17. smacky, how have you lived such a reprobate life, yet still look like Miss Innocence?

    PL,

    It was my mother’s draperies. They take years off your age. You should try it out.

    Also, it’s not like I was a heroin addict or a crackhead. Dabbling in a few psycadelics and psychoactives isn’t going to make you look like Keith Richards.

  18. Julian,
    The planet called Norfolk VA. Which, admittedly, is not the place we are talking about.

    I’ve noticed that there are many things that most people assume that the police do already which they don’t actually do. It’s one of the many reasons why we libertarians are so often met with puzzled stares when we discuss these issues with “the normals”. We rail about some new police abuse of power and people respond by saying “Wow. I thought they were already doing that. It’s about damned time they started”

  19. One of the hot ones, smacky, of course! In case you don’t know, they’re hottish, Goth-like models that pose in various states of undress. Hence the capitalization.

    Um, not that I would know anything about that.

  20. It’s the “potential victims” who dare stand outside when criminals are likely to strike.

    In my book, this means that potential victims should be allowed to carry guns.

    It is pretty tough to think of a legitimate reason why a kid under 16 would have for being on the streets of Washington, DC without a parent.

    Unless and until said kid does something wrong, its even harder to think of a legitimate reason why its any of your business. In the absence of wrongdoing, the “legitimacy” of a kid’s comings and goings is the jurisdiction of their parents, not of random passersby (yeah, Dan, I’m looking at you) or the cops.

  21. >>>>>

    …what’s the legal angle here ??

    What is the legal/constitutional basis for citizen curfews in the U.S. ?

    If a local government can decree (…and enforce with criminal penalties) a 10 P.M. curfew for persons 16-and-under — could they “legally” make that curfew at sunset, 4 P.M, or even make ‘Saturdays’ an entire curfew day ?

    How ’bout curfews for all 20-and-under persons, or all adults ?

    Is there ‘any’ legal limit on government ‘Curfew Authority’ ?

    _________________

  22. smacky, how have you lived such a reprobate life, yet still look like Miss Innocence?

    PL,

    It was my mother’s draperies. They take years off your age. You should try it out.

    Also, it’s not like I was a heroin addict or a crackhead. Dabbling in a few psycadelics and psychoactives isn’t going to make you look like Keith Richards.

  23. Look- the curfew thing is a no-brainer. Politicians get to say they’re being tough on crime, police get to engage in a little high-visibility, low-risk work (and maybe bust a few real criminals in the process), parents get to have an excuse to keep the kids from going out, and the kids….well, they have no vote and no constituency, so who cares what they think?

  24. Query: What does make one look like Keith Richards?

  25. PL,

    I am aware of who the so-called Suicide Girls are. A joke if I may (adapted from comedian Neil Hamburger):

    Q: Why was ipecac invented (or, why does ipecac exist)?

    A: So that people who have eaten something spoiled can induce vomiting another way instead of visiting the Suicide Girls’ website.

  26. This post is an example of why I don’t read Reason anymore. The idea expressed is so smug in its certainity that it changes from what could be a reasonable point into a blog posting clearly designed for the sole purpose of regaling us with a smart-ass punchline.

    I’ve been mugged twice, once in DC. Both times it was by a gang of young men no more than 18 years of age. Both incidents were in mixed neighborhoods and the only time it occured prior to 10pm was in Oklahoma. I don’t suspect the curfew will have massive influence on stopping crime and I don’t suspect this will keep unruly teenagers off the streets like one would hope, but it will give cops on partol the opportunity to stop any and all teenagers out past 10pm and that is actually something.

    Spend a little time on Southern Avenue in DC past 10pm and you’ll be able to see the leverage the curfew will grant the cops. Young men congregate on street corners at all hours of the night engaging in activities that aren’t exactly wholesome. And they don’t just stay in those neighborhoods; they venture out to avoid detection. My guess is you won’t really get that opportunity pontificating in front of your laptop.

    The police chief is correct: a ton of parents are irresponsible and their kids are much more likely to commit crimes than parents taking account of their children’s behavior past 10pm. They aren’t suggesting they are better parents than parents themselves; they are stating if the parent is going to let their kids roam free because they do want to do their job as parents, they’re going to institute a curfew to curb illegal behavior inasmuch as a curfew can be expected to do so. Wow. What an overbearing nanny state!

    Re: potential victims – this is, admittedly, slightly silly, but not altogether a bad or unwarranted move. Go back and look at some of DC and Prince George’s County’s unsolved murders from 2005 (the post did a long piece on this). Many of the crimes occured late at night to unsuspecting bystanders and they were usually very young. People were shot waiting at the bus stop or sitting in their cars late at stoplights at night. Again, I don’t know that the curfew is the best idea ever or will protect teenagers specifically, but the smug fucking response is just not warranted.

  27. Query: What does make one look like Keith Richards?

  28. Query: What does make one look like Keith Richards?

    Death

  29. Unless and until said kid does something wrong, its even harder to think of a legitimate reason why its any of your business. In the absence of wrongdoing, the “legitimacy” of a kid’s comings and goings is the jurisdiction of their parents, not of random passersby (yeah, Dan, I’m looking at you) or the cops.

    It’s my business because as a member of the community, I have an interest in both preventing crime and protecting children. I don’t know if that curfew should be quite as early as 10 o’clock, but there is certainly a time when reasonable people would agree that kids wouldn’t be out unless they are causing trouble.

  30. David,

    Ah, as I’ve always suspected. If Keith Richards cut his finger playing guitar, he’d “let it bleed” formaldehyde.

  31. Query: What does make one look like Keith Richards?

    A delicate balance of preservatives and VD.

  32. I don’t suspect this will keep unruly teenagers off the streets like one would hope, but it will give cops on partol the opportunity to stop any and all teenagers out past 10pm and that is actually something.

    So your solution to prevent muggings by some underage individuals is allowing police to arrest all underage individuals past a certain hour? I’m afraid to hear your solution to drunk driving.

  33. Okay, throw out the Gothic tarts, then. I just added that for effect, anyway. I was really expecting crazy Helena Bonham Carter 🙂 She’s certainly not vomit inducing.

  34. PL,

    I’m not offended. I just like making fun of the Suicide Girls. Easy target and all. 🙂

  35. It’s my business because as a member of the community..
    No sentence that starts like that can end well.

  36. Goth-Tarts: The most depressing breakfast pastry in history.

  37. If you support the curfew you would love my idea that is guaranteed to reduce crime. Revoke the 4th and 5th Amendments and then the police can arrest anyone anytime that they want without any concern for search warrants, probable cause or defense attorneys messing up a good bust. As a bonus the police would not have to worry about a person’s age or the time of day, imagine the crime free utopia that we could enjoy if we were willing to embrace the idea of a 24/7 no holds barred police state.

    An alternative would be to enforce a 24 hour curfew on anyone that is a possible crime victim. Since it is difficult to keep criminals off the streets, it would be far easier to just make it a crime for anyone to be roaming freely in public where they could become the victim of a crime.

  38. “Query: What does make one look like Keith Richards?”

    The realization that Brian Jones was a better guitar player by a factor of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 if not more.

  39. “So your solution to prevent muggings by some underage individuals is allowing police to arrest all underage individuals past a certain hour? I’m afraid to hear your solution to drunk driving.”

    Hey AC,

    If you and your neighbors were getting jacked by a bunch of Lil’ Thug wannabees with loaded guns, you might hold a different perspective.

    I live in the ghetto and when it gets dark, these little pieces of shit start hitting my neighbors if they go outside. And they also do home-invasions. I HAVE NO PROBLEM if the cops want to stop and ask them a few questions. These kids are TAKING AWAY MY NEIGHBORS’ LIBERTY. But I guess being a libertarian means that’s okay, since the thugs aren’t an arm of the government.

  40. If you and your neighbors were getting jacked by a bunch of Lil’ Thug wannabees with loaded guns, you might hold a different perspective.

    Oh, good point. I had forgotten that police have no authority to arrest people for assault, robbery, or breaking and entering.

  41. Oh, please! This is nothing. Locking kids up all day long in kiddie prisons (public schools) is far worse than a 10 pm curfew. If we can justify locking them in schools, justifying curfews is a no brainer.

  42. Been there. Used ta live on the isthmus, in Madison, Wi.
    as well as grow up in metro NYC. The houses next door got turned over to Section 8, & refugees from Milwaukee moved in.
    Sad as all hell. I remember puttin home on my bike @ 2am, & seein these little kids- 8-10 yrs old, runnin in the streets. Now, I grew up in rough climes, & I dont get snobbey about folks English….but try as I might, and I tried, I could barely understand what these kids were sayin. Or WHY they was so friggin dirty. (I could understand the kids in a northern Vt trailerpark OK, but I still couldnt understand why they was so dirty)
    Anyhow, I see the, uh patriarch of the family on the stoop, drunk, as usual, & I come up to him, and say: how come thses kids are runnin around in the damn street?
    I am informed of my racism, & told this is an African tradition.
    That explains it.
    Damn near stomped him to permanent crippledom. .
    And, asshole: use your own fuckin name.

  43. “I don’t know if that curfew should be quite as early as 10 o’clock, but there is certainly a time when reasonable people would agree that kids wouldn’t be out unless they are causing trouble.”

    During my high school years I suffered from pretty chronic insomnia. So I’d take walks.

    So, Dan T., I’d like to offer you a hearty and warm bowl of Chunky-Style? Shut The Fuck Up.

  44. “I’m not offended. I just like making fun of the Suicide Girls. Easy target and all. :)”

    The soon-to-be former room mate of the girl I’m currently dating has her heart set on being a Suicide Girl.

    She is a deeply fucked up person.

  45. I am glad I didn’t live in DC as a teenager.

  46. The thing about the Suicide girls that gets me is that they are all still alive.

    As a necrophiliac, I have to say that I found their website very disappointing.

    (yes, I’m kidding)

  47. “If you and your neighbors were getting jacked by a bunch of Lil’ Thug wannabees with loaded guns, you might hold a different perspective.”

    Nonesense. Guns are banned in Washington DC.

  48. During my high school years I suffered from pretty chronic insomnia. So I’d take walks.

    I did the same, but I don’t know if I always stayed out of trouble. Once I snuck into my friend’s house and drank a glass of orange juice. I left the dirty glass on the counter to freak him out.
    Well, I guess I stayed out of trouble, but it still was sorta creepy on my part.

  49. I should not have told that story. Too weird.

  50. highnumber – I used to sneak/break into houses all the time, just to see if I could do it. Mostly they were homes that weren’t quite finished yet.

    It’s nice to know how to jimmy a lock, though.

  51. When was fourteen, I started walking home from work. Ten minute walk, at 11:00 pm. This curfew will cost people jobs.

  52. Little kids ages 18 and down raise hell all night long in DC. Smacky’s right. Kerry Howley’s wrong.

  53. This isn’t the first time DC tried a curfew. Last time, it was struck down by the courts, claiming kids had an inalienable right to walk the streets. The big change is, supposedly, that now, kids can go out if they’re with their parents. Doesn’t seem any different to me.

  54. Remember, it is practically impossible to legally own a gun in the District. Remember that and the rediculous violent crime and murder rate in Washington the next time the gun confiscators tell you how taking your guns away is for your own protection.

    And NYC has the lowest crime rate of any major American city because everyone’s packin’.

    OR… just maybe there are more important factors that drive the crime rate – factors which dwarf the presence or absence of gun control. And before you call be a leftist commie pinko, I support gun ownership – but let’s not pretend that gun control is the cause of high crime in places like DC.

  55. Well, I never have much believed in curfews, but I do think parents who let their children run around unsupervised late at night eventually end up with problems. Long, long ago on a distant planet when I was growing up, if we were causing a problem, any adult could snatch us up and take us to our parents (we did NOT care for that outcome. When my own children were growing up, I rarely had to worry about curfews for similar reasons, although the fear of running into a couger, bear, or other wild critter in the dark helped. Nice to live in a small town. Had my fill of juvenile late-night fun more than thirty years ago and didn’t mind movin’ to a place where the nearest stop light is 60 miles away. But I DO understand why some folks like to see a curfew.

  56. Oh, and I DON’T support any form of curfew, just as a matter of principle. And because a curfew does nothing to address the actual causes of crime, but instead follows the exact same principle that gave us sobriety checks and bag searches; i.e. that everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

  57. Minors have all the rights that adult citizens have. However, we don’t let them exercise all those rights until such time as their parents, or sometimes the law, deems them ready to do so. If a child earns a significant amount of money, parents have a fiduciary duty to see that it doesn’t get wasted. Sometimes the state demands that the parents take special care of that. (See the “Jackie Coogan” law.) In court proceedings, if a minor’s interests differ greatly from his parents’, a guardian ad litem can be appointed. We dole out the right to drive in bits and pieces, from age 16 to 21 – though full rights should kick in at 18. We try to keep them from drinking booze and smoking tobacco. That a minor’s right to be out and about at any hour can be restricted by the state shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    I would prefer if a community that wants to institute a curfew would start by allowing parents to “volunteer” their under-18 kids for this “service.” In essence, they would be deputizing the cops to exert authority in loco parentis. After seeing how that works, a move to a mandatory curfew could be debated. I can see Mom and/or Dad telling Junior and Missy, “You get home on time or I”l register your name with the cops!”

    Mandatory Libertarian disclaimer: It would be preferable if the voluntary curfew were enforced by private securuty. Everybody drink.

    mutt complains about refugees from Milwaukee. Sometimes those are folks who only stopped for awhile in MKE, and are actually from Chicago. They may have moved there from Mississippi or Arkansas. Milwaukee has had a curfew for a long time.

    The Milwaukee ordinance prohibits people younger than 17 from being out from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays between Sept. 1 and May 31.

    Between June 1 and Aug. 31, the curfew applies from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. all seven days.

    “An officer still asks, ‘Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Do your parents know where you are?’ ” Ruzinski said.

    The officer has the discretion to decide whether to cite someone, she said, adding, “Common sense prevails.”Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

    For years, in the 70s and earlier, the TV news would be preceded by an announcement like this: “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” In 2004, the law was changed to include an exception for kids returning from any activity protected by the First Amendment, as a response to a ruling in the 7th Federal Circuit, Hodgkins v. Peterson. So, some kid walking home from his Wednesday night church group might get challenged by the cops, but he can go on his way after answering their questions.

    Kevin

  58. “Dabbling in a few psycadelics and psychoactives isn’t going to make you look like Keith Richards.”

    Not for the first thirty years, anyway.

  59. Little kids ages 18 and down raise hell all night long in DC. Smacky’s right. Kerry Howley’s wrong.

    DCLIFER,

    Waiiit a sec. I don’t recall mentioning whether I was in favor or against the curfew. And I have no idea why you are pitting my alleged point of view against Kerry Howley’s. I agree with Kerry, actually. I think you may be confused. No, no — you are definately confused.

  60. “I’ve been mugged twice, once in DC. Both times it was by a gang of young men no more than 18 years of age”

    Interesting, what would you think if I made the statement, “I’ve been mugged twice and in both cases it was by a gang of people wearing jeans.” Or “I’ve been mugged twice and in both cases it was a bunch of norwegians.” Should we start restricting the ability of jean-wearing individuals or norwegians based on the sample size of 2, or is there perhaps a way that we can design a criminal justice system that only punishes the guilty?

    I was personally out after 10pm many times during my pre-16 days. I never once committed a crime during all of that time. What right do you have therefore to restrict my actions? Isn’t that pretty much the essense of libertarianism? If my actions aren’t hurting anyone, what right do you have to use the threat of force to restrict those actions?

  61. San Diego used to have a strict, across-the-board 10 pm curfew for all under-18s (dating back to 1947) that I had never even heard of until I was 17 and a half, after many months of late-night coffee, meals, movies, and job shifts. Never was hassled for it — maybe I looked collegiate? I just learned a few minutes ago that it was struck down for unconstitutional vagueness in ’97 (when I was no longer a minor nor living there anymore). Woooot! Buncha minors brought a suit — good for them.

  62. My car was vandalized by kids when I was in D.C. (at a house in Capitol Hill). For what that’s worth. In Chicago, it was just a homeless guy breaking in to sleep in it.

  63. Won’t someone please think of the homeless teenagers?

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