PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — As Prince George’s County prepares to implement a curfew designed to curb violent crime, a Georgetown law professor is questioning the effect it may have.
A 2017 study conducted by Purdue University’s Jillian Carr and University of Virginia’s Jennifer Doleac found gun violence in Washington, D.C. was not reduced by a curfew.
“Curfew laws are not a cost-effective way to reduce gun violence,” the study reads. “In fact, we find that curfews increase gun violence.”
The research used audio sensor technology to measure gunshots because it said traditional reporting mechanisms, like 911 calls, may be underreported in areas where there is a high level of police mistrust.
“We’ve known for decades that juvenile curfew is a really blunt instrument when it comes to fighting crime,” said Eduardo Ferrer, the policy director of Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Initiative. “Most youth arrests happen during the hours of 3-6 p.m. before any curfews even take effect.”
Ferrer’s message to Prince George’s County was: “We need to stop scapegoating young people.”
The researchers do admit the study did not measure the impact of curfews on minor offenses — an important indication considering Prince George’s County officials cited the massive rise in carjackings by youth. The study said curfews could “reduce [minor offenses] enough to offset the increase in gun violence and the infringement on juveniles’ rights and parents’ choices.”
But even after reading the report, Ferrer thinks other solutions need to be prioritized.
“It comes down to investing directly in your family and communities,” he said. “We really need to shift to much more of a public health approach — so, working on prevention and intervention — rather than just reacting once harm has happened.”