Minnesota Cities Magazine

Two-Way Street: What Is Your City’s Approach to Youth Curfews?

Roger Pohlman, police chief, Red WingROGER POHLMAN
Chief of Police

The first curfew ordinance for the City of Red Wing was implemented on July 5, 1895. It was described as “an ordinance to prevent riots, noise disturbance, and disorderly assemblages in the City of Red Wing or any disorderly conduct in public places.”

Today the ordinance has evolved and covers minors under the age of 15 between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For minors who are 15 to 17 years old, the hours of restriction are between 12:01 a.m. and 5 a.m. every day.

Why a curfew?
Law enforcement officials are tasked with providing for the safety of their community while ensuring the constitutional rights of all citizens. Understanding the intent and purpose of the statutes established by our elected officials is key to ensuring the consistent and fair enforcement of these laws.

Let’s look at the 11 curfew violations in Red Wing in 2013. Each one started out as a suspicious activity call, someone hanging out in an area that is normally vacant at that time of night, or someone looking into parked vehicles. The curfew statute, along with the call from citizens, provided officers the reasonable suspicion to detain the individual in each case and further investigate whether or not a crime has occurred.

Officers also possess the discretion to allow minors to carry out essential or authorized business during the hours of cur¬few. Some exceptions to the curfew statute allow for going to the store to pick up medicine or supplies for a sick parent, and the legal employment of a minor that may require working after hours. Officers verify and allow the minor to continue under exceptions such as these.

Community tool
The curfew law is an excellent community tool for keeping our residents safe, whether reducing property crimes (thefts and property damage) or preventing crimes against people (assaults and human trafficking). As law enforcement officials, we strive to work with the community to provide for discussion and understanding of the curfew laws. This helps to support responsible decisions by our youth and a vital process of engagement that directly contributes to the satisfaction of being part of the community we live in. As we like to say, “Stay aware, stay safe!”

Robert Beussman, mayor of New UlmROBERT BEUSSMAN

As far as we can tell, there has been a curfew for youth in the City of New Ulm for more than 100 years. The earliest record of a curfew is in the City Council minutes of April 7, 1903, and ultimately Ordinance No. 74. Curfew times were set at 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the spring, summer, and fall months, with an 8 p.m. curfew start time for the winter.

Changes to the curfew ordinance
The curfew times were repealed in 1943 with Ordinance No. 173, which set the curfew for children under 16 years of age between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. all year round. Our curfew has changed over time to reflect and accommodate our community’s evening youth activities and events. Currently, City Code, Section 8.30 states the following:

Curfew. Minors under the age of 16, curfew is from 12 a.m. (midnight) through 5 a.m. Exception. Such curfew shall not apply to any students under 16 years who are lawfully attending, going to, or returning from school, church, or community-sponsored athletic, musical, or social activities or events.”

According to a Brown County pamphlet, “Curfew laws restrict the rights of kids to be outdoors or in public places during certain hours of the day. Such laws aim to establish a safer community and better protect children from negative influences that they might encounter while wandering around late at night.” Along those lines, the three primary reasons we have a curfew in New Ulm are:

  1. Crime deterrence. With a curfew, we have fewer instances of trespassing, damage to property, and lower-level crimes.
  2. Parental assistance. In many cases, parents were unaware that their child had snuck out of the house.
  3. Youth guidance. It is a proactive way to help keep young people out of trouble.

Other issues to consider
A community must balance curfew regulations with our young citizens’ civil liberties such as the right to peacefully assemble. We in New Ulm—and I think most communities—believe that a curfew helps create a safer community and helps guide our youth toward responsible behavior. If history teaches us anything, curfews will likely change again to reflect our community’s needs or youth activities in the future.

Read the November-December 2014 issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine

* By posting you are agreeing to the LMC Comment Policy.