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What Cities Have Learned About Curfew Centers To Cut Youth Crime

City leaders in Jackson, Mississippi are looking to set up “youth engagement centers” in tandem with a recently passed curfew ordinance in order to keep children off the streets after dark, and to curb crime among youth. 


The mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, said that the centers will get “to the root cause of why that young person may be on the street,” instead of “detaining them and becoming part of the problem,” The Marshall Project reports.


Other U.S. cities have enacted curfews and set up youth centers, with mixed results, and national studies have shown that curfews usually don’t stop violent crime. 


In Jackson, city officials believe the engagement centers would become a safe space to keep kids away from potentially dangerous situations. The children would have to agree to be taken to the centers or go home; police cannot force kids on the street to attend after the curfew.


The Marshall Project looked at similar youth centers to curb youth crime Philadelphia and Baltimore. Leaders in those cities offered the following suggestions:


1. Curfews and curfew centers are not standalone solutions for youth violence.


While curfews are frequently imposed as a measure to curb youth crime, academic research shows they generally don’t work, and low attendance is common at curfew centers. The key  key to success, leaders in both cities said, was assessing each child’s needs and offering them something interesting to do.


2. Police shouldn’t be heavily involved.


In Baltimore, instead of police cars with flashing lights, the city used a bus with youth ambassadors and social workers to disperse kids hanging out after curfew. And in both Baltimore and Philadelphia, the centers were staffed with social workers, mentors and trained young adult ambassadors. 


3. Kids need a stake in creating their own safe spaces.


Leaders in all three cities said that involving kids in planning of the centers was key.


4. Food and simple offerings go a long way.


Hot meals are provided at the centers in both Baltimore and Philadelphia. At one center in Baltimore, which saw only two kids last summer, both asked for food. In Philadelphia, Bradley offers information about housing programs and grant applications that she helps families fill out. Her center also provides transportation for kids wanting to participate in their programs.

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