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Cities are embracing teen curfews, though they might not curb crime

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lailluminator.com – Amanda Hernández – 2023-08-29 07:04:11

Cities are embracing teen curfews, though they might not curb crime

by Amanda Hernández, Louisiana Illuminator
August 29, 2023

In response to growing public concern over crime, cities and counties throughout the United States are returning to a familiar tool: curfews for young people.

Proponents argue curfews curb crime and protect youth by keeping them off the streets. But research suggests curfews are ineffective, and some juvenile justice advocates and experts warn of unintended consequences such as increased racial profiling, and strained relationships between police and teens.

More than a dozen cities and counties have reinstated or enforced juvenile curfews this year, including Washington, D.C.; Memphis, Tennessee; New Smyrna Beach, Florida; Sea Isle City, New Jersey; and Fulton County, Georgia. Philadelphia and Chicago made their curfews permanent last year.

Vicksburg, Mississippi, recently reinstated its curfew following a shooting in January that killed a 13-year-old and left two others injured. The city also has implemented a community policing program and allocated $200,000 in funding for a center where children and their families can receive mentoring, tutoring and mental health support.

“If you limit the opportunity for youth to be out at 11 o'clock, 12 o'clock, one o'clock and two o'clock in the morning, you limit and control that exposure, and then you put it back where it ought to be — in the home,” Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told Stateline. “I'm a stern believer that you can't be too punitive. … You have to deal with it from a holistic point of view and that is, include the family, the school and the community.”

Both he and police Chief Penny Jones said crime rates in the community have decreased since the curfew started.

“Kids will get use [sic] to it and it will become the norm. We just want to be sure our youth are safe,” Jones wrote in an email.

Axl, a 19-year-old Kentucky resident, poses with his former Youth Advocate Programs advocate, Madison Rymer. Youth Advocate Programs is a national nonprofit that provides community-based alternatives to out-of-home placements. (Courtesy of Axl)

But some elected officials moved in the other direction. In June, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a statewide ban on curfews that prohibits both cities and counties from implementing them. The ban will take effect in September.

Texas state Rep. David Cook, a Republican who wrote the bill, said he hopes to see “a better relationship between juveniles and law enforcement agencies” as a result of the statewide ban on curfews. Cook also raised concerns that curfews could violate constitutional rights.

“There's a lot that we can do as a state to improve the juvenile system,” Cook said in an interview with Stateline. “The more that we can have community-based programs, the better off juveniles are going to be with regard to trying to reform their behavior for a better future.”

The District of Columbia is one of the latest cities to enforce a juvenile curfew. The city's curfew targets seven specific areas and prohibits those under the age of 17 from being outdoors past 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Minors who violate the curfew will be taken to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, where they will be reunited with their families and provided with rehabilitative services and support.

“Our goal isn't to arrest our young people, but we want to ensure the safety of our youth here in the District of Columbia,” said Pamela Smith, the city's police chief, during a news conference this month.

Some cities, including Baltimore and Atlanta, likewise are changing how they handle curfews — opting to reduce or eliminate fines and other penalties and instead provide violators with educational and community-based programs, such as counseling, mentoring and recreational activities. In other jurisdictions, parents and guardians can still receive fines or even go to jail if their kids violate curfew.

Are curfews effective?

In 1996, President Bill Clinton called on cities and towns to impose nightly curfews on teenagers. Today more than 400 towns, cities and counties have enacted youth curfew laws, according to the National Youth Rights Association.

But U.S. juvenile curfews are “ineffective at reducing crime and victimization,” according to a review summarizing the findings of 12 studies that was published in 2016 by the Campbell Collaboration, an international social science research network. The review also found a slight increase in crime during curfew hours and no effect on non-curfew hours.

A paper published in 2014 by the Social Science Research Network measured the effect of the District of Columbia's juvenile curfews on gun violence by analyzing ShotSpotter data from January 2006 through June 2013. The authors found that gunfire incidents increased by 150% when the curfew was in effect. The authors also suggested that curfews keep bystanders and witnesses from the streets, reducing their deterrent effects on crime.

But some local officials have said curfew enforcement led to a decrease in crime within their jurisdictions.

In Prince George's County, Maryland, where local leaders enforced a juvenile curfew last year, officials reported a 20% decrease in overall crime during curfew hours in the first month of enforcement.

We see that communities that have access to resources have the least amount of youth crime, and that's not by coincidence.

– Dafna Gozani, National Center for Youth senior policy attorney

Experts also worry that curfews will disproportionately affect young people of color.

Juvenile curfews may result in increased racial profiling, said William Carbone, a lecturer and the executive director of the Tow Youth Justice Institute at the University of New Haven.

“I don't have a lot of faith in curfews at all,” Carbone said in an interview with Stateline. “When you implement a measure, like curfews, you run the risk of creating worse relationships between the youth and the police, and run the risk of profiling. … It's just one of the areas where kids of color are disproportionately disadvantaged.”

Carbone said curfews may also move crime from one area to another because “kids don't obey geographic boundaries.”

“If there's a curfew in one location, [minors] could move to another location. It doesn't stop the crime,” Carbone said.

Curfews are more likely to harm youth of color because of existing disparities in law enforcement interactions, Candice Jones, the president and CEO of the Public Welfare Foundation, a justice advocacy group, wrote in an email.

“They could be doing something legitimate — coming home from a game late or friend's house studying — but now a curfew has given cause for them to have an interaction with law enforcement, which we know can be particularly dangerous for Black and Brown youth.”

At least 11,680 children under the age of 17 were arrested in 2020 for curfew violations or loitering, according to statistics released by the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Federal data shows that for decades, Black minors have been arrested for curfew and loitering charges at two or three times the rate of their white counterparts. The overall juvenile arrest rate, which includes all offenses, peaked in 1996 and has since declined.

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Alternative solutions to youth crime

Some curfew opponents point to approaches such as cognitive behavior therapy, a type of talk therapy that helps identify thought patterns and tries to change them, and tailored drug or mental health treatment programs as more effective strategies, Carbone said.

“Treatments and interventions, and as little contact with police and courts as possible, are very important ingredients in trying to prevent juvenile crime,” Carbone said.

Carbone asserted that diversion — approaches that redirect youth away from the juvenile justice system — works as a proactive measure to engage and prevent youth crime.

“It's very powerful to a young person when they go into a courtroom and the person on the bench, for example, wearing the long black robe, pounds a gavel and says, ‘I find you delinquent.' Kids tend to internalize that and then live up to it,” Carbone said.

To counter this, advocates suggest communities should prioritize comprehensive yearlong programs that allow children to engage in sports, cultural, arts and other social activities.

In Maryland, the Department of Juvenile Services in June launched the Safe Summer initiative, which aims to direct additional resources to counties grappling with higher rates of youth violence and create youth employment opportunities. Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill that expands diversionary programs in the state and encourages police to direct children to juvenile review boards instead of court proceedings.

Axl rides a horse. In the future, Axl would like to go to college and become a horse trainer. (Courtesy of Arianna Gribbin)

In Tacoma, Washington, city leaders launched the city's first free summer youth program, offering recreational activities such as basketball tournaments, games, art and music.

Rather than punishing children and their families with fines for curfew violations, communities should invest in social services and address the root causes of juvenile delinquency, said Dafna Gozani, a senior policy attorney with the National Center for Youth, a nonprofit law firm and juvenile justice advocacy group.

“We see that communities that have access to resources have the least amount of youth crime, and that's not by coincidence,” Gozani said. “We also see that it is incredibly expensive to support the carceral system and that's at the expense of investing in things like education, health care, pro-social activities — all the things that actually prevent kids from coming into the system.”

Axl, a 19-year-old Kentucky resident who requested to be identified by only his first name for privacy reasons, found immense value in participating in the program offered by Youth Advocate Programs, a national nonprofit that provides community-based alternatives to out-of-home placements.

He said the program helped him develop healthy coping mechanisms, strengthen his communication skills and embrace his transgender identity.

“I did have a lot of support in the program and it helped me learn not to be scared to be who I want to be. It showed that I can be different and not have to blend in with everyone else,” Axl said.

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This article was first published by Stateline, part of the States Newsroom nonprofit news network with the . It's supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Stateline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Scott S. Greenberger for questions: info@stateline.org. Follow Stateline on Facebook and X.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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Louisiana Illuminator

After U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow bump stocks, U.S. Senate rejects bill to ban them • Louisiana Illuminator

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lailluminator.com – Ariana Figueroa – 2024-06-19 06:25:13

by Ariana Figueroa, Louisiana Illuminator
June 19, 2024

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts blocked a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would ban bump stocks following a Supreme Court decision that repealed a Trump-era rule against using the gun accessory.

Ricketts, a Nebraska Republican, objected to New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich's request that the chamber approve his bill — cosponsored by Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins — by unanimous consent.

Heinrich attempted to pass the bill, which the trio introduced last year, following the Supreme Court ruling last week that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacked the authority to ban bump stocks.

“As a firearms owner myself, there's no legitimate use for a bump stock,” Heinrich said. “What they are tailor made for is a mass shooting.”

The bill, S. 1909, would ban the sale of bump stocks that allow semi-automatic weapons to rapidly fire multiple rounds like a machine gun.

Ricketts argued that the Supreme Court made the right decision and said the bill didn't just ban bump stocks but also “targets other firearm accessories.”

Ricketts added that the bill is a violation of the Second Amendment.

“This bill is about banning as many firearm accessories as possible and giving ATF broad authority to ban most semi-automatic firearms,” Ricketts said. “It's an unconstitutional attack on law-abiding gun owners.”

Heinrich said the bill would not ban a large amount of firearm accessories, but would ban things like Glock switches, which can be attached to the side of a Glock handgun to convert a semi-automatic pistol into a fully automatic firearm.

“I think the American people understand what common-sense gun safety looks like,” Heinrich said.

Senate procedure requires 60 votes to proceed on most legislation. But for the chamber to approve a measure by unanimous consent, no senator can object.

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Supreme Court ruling

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned an ATF regulation, enacted during former President Donald Trump's administration after the Las Vegas mass shooting, which defined a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a bump stock attachment as a machine gun. Machine guns are generally prohibited under federal law.

In that mass shooting, a gunman used rifles outfitted with bump stocks to fire into a crowd of 22,000 people at a music festival, killing 58 people that night and two more who died of their injuries later, and injuring more than 500.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor that the bill was needed because the Supreme Court's decision was “an utter disgrace.”

“It will endanger our communities, endanger law enforcement, and make it easier for mass shooters to unleash carnage,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

The opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who is a strong defender of Second Amendment gun rights, deemed that the ATF exceeded its statutory authority in prohibiting the sale and possession of bump stocks, which he said differed importantly from machine guns.

“Nothing changes when a semiautomatic rifle is equipped with a bump stock,” Thomas wrote. “Between every shot, the shooter must release pressure from the trigger and allow it to reset before reengaging the trigger for another shot.”

Additionally, the decision, which was split along ideological lines, limits the federal government's ability to address gun violence in the absence of congressional action.

More federal gun legislation unlikely

With a split Congress, any gun-safety related legislation is unlikely to pass. However, after Friday's decision, President Joe Biden called on Congress to ban bump stocks and assault weapons.

“Americans should not have to live in fear of this mass devastation,” Biden said at the time.

The last time Congress passed gun legislation was in 2022 after two mass shootings that occurred less than two weeks apart.

One was at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed. The other was in Buffalo, New York, where a white supremacist targeted a predominantly Black neighborhood and killed 10 Black people.

The 2022 gun safety legislation did not ban any firearms but provided funds for mental health and to help states enact red flag laws, which allow the courts to temporarily remove a firearm from an individual who is a threat to themselves or others, among other provisions.

That same year, the Supreme Court decided on a major gun-related case that invalidated a New York law against carrying a firearm in public without showing a special need for protection.

Because of that decision, there's another gun-related case before the court that will test a federal law that prevents the possession of firearms by a person who is subject to a domestic violence protective order. A decision on that is expected this month.

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and X.

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Louisiana lags on electric vehicle charging program, but DOTD sees ‘no reason to rush’ • Louisiana Illuminator

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lailluminator.com – Wesley Muller – 2024-06-19 05:00:24

by Wesley Muller, Louisiana Illuminator
June 19, 2024

Two years after receiving federal funding to build electric vehicle charging stations across the state, Louisiana has yet to ask for bids from companies that might want the money. However, state transportation officials say there is a reason for their sluggish pace. 

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), plans to start the request-for-proposal process as soon as it identifies an appropriate “contracting mechanism” under state law to use the money, DOTD spokesperson Rodney Mallett said. 

The Federal Highway Administration allocated $73.4 million to Louisiana under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program in 2022. NEVI is a product of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Congress approved in 2021. It included billions for state transportation agencies to build a network of rapid chargers along major highways. 

Louisiana's initial response was on par with other states. DOTD submitted its NEVI deployment plan by the federal deadline of August 2022. However, while states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and others now are disbursing the grant money or have already built some EV charging stations, Louisiana hasn't yet figured out how to spend it. 

“There's no real reason to spend two-plus years figuring out how to get this money to grant recipients when other states are already opening up chargers,” said Ryan McKinnon of the Charge Ahead Partnership, an EV charger lobby group. “Lots of states will be opening up chargers pretty soon, and it sounds like Louisiana will be sitting on the sidelines.” 

McKinnon said Louisiana is one of 11 states that have still not asked for bids to use the NEVI grant money. 

Some congressional Republicans and anti-union groups have directed their criticism at the Biden administration, claiming the delays are the result of mismanagement or of labor requirements within federal rules. Officials closest to the situation say the delays are largely because it is a new program that they want done correctly.

Mallet said the federal rules for the NEVI program don't “fit cleanly” within DOTD's usual contracting methods. DOTD often writes contracts for projects in which the agency owns and maintains the infrastructure, such as highways. In contrast, the EV charger grants will pay for the construction of infrastructure for which “ownership and operation will be transferred” from the state, in most cases, to a private entity, he said.

Although the Biden administration has aimed for a goal of building 500,000 charging stations by 2026, Mallet said the NEVI funds do not lapse, so there is no hard deadline to complete the projects.

“The key is to do it right for the long term,” Mallet said. “No reason to rush it through.”

States to receive $2.5B from feds for electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Tyler Herrmann with Louisiana Clean Fuels, a nonprofit working with DOTD on the NEVI rollout, said earlier, smaller EV charger programs saw build-outs at sites that weren't very practical. 

The chargers were often installed at public libraries or apartment complexes — places with no real interest or resources to maintain them. Without that routine maintenance, chargers would break and often stay that way for years. 

The government learned from those programs and is now taking care to avoid making those same kinds of mistakes, Herrmann said.   

“It is a unique situation,” Herrmann said of DOTD's efforts to administer the NEVI grants. “The program is pretty much completely different from what the DOTD does normally.”

In the meantime, Louisiana Clean Fuels has been working to build a workforce of technicians who can install and repair EV chargers and supply equipment.

Baton Rouge Community College just recently saw its first class of students graduate from a three-week course in which they learned some of the fundamentals required to become nationally certified Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment technicians. 

Herrmann said about a dozen students completed the first course, which will soon be offered at other community colleges across the state.

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and X.

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St. Tammany’s embattled coroner targeted under new state laws • Louisiana Illuminator

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lailluminator.com – Julie O'Donoghue – 2024-06-18 17:43:54

by Julie O'Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator
June 18, 2024

Gov. Jeff Landry has signed two new laws to weaken the authority of St. Tammany Parish's controversial coroner who is already the subject of a recall campaign. 

Dr. Christopher Tape drew scrutiny from lawmakers after a WWL-TV investigation revealed he had been accused of child sex abuse in New Mexico decades ago and then settled a lawsuit over workplace sexual harassment allegations in the past few years. Charges in the New Mexico case were quashed after the prosecutor failed to move the case forward in a timely fashion. 

Almost immediately after taking office, Tape also tried to cancel a multi-parish program housed in the St. Tammany coroner's office that provides nurses to perform sexual assault exams on victims. The service helps police collect evidence and assists Northshore district attorneys who prosecute sex crimes. 

Legislators responded to Tape's actions, as well as his refusal to resign from his job, by filing legislation to limit his power.

Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington, sponsored a new law to give the St. Tammany Parish Council greater authority over the coroner's public finances and the ability to remove any coroner convicted of violent crimes. Moving forward, candidates for St. Tammany coroner must submit records regarding their criminal background to the local clerk of court.

Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, authored a second law that allows the state attorney general to move sexual assault victim programs to another parish if the local coroner is unqualified or unwilling to perform those duties. 

In Tape's case, a transfer has already happened. Last month, the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office took over the sexual assault examination program serving the Northshore region. The two parishes have entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement that allowed Jefferson Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich to hire the nurses who worked for the St. Tammany program.

Meanwhile, the organizers of Tape's recall must gather 35,000 signatures from qualified voters before mid-October for an election potentially forcing Tape out of office to take place.

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and X.

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