Teens Views should Legal Curfews for Teens be Abolished – Yes

For a teen, living in today’s times has gotten more chaotic. There are peer pressures from vices, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs or committing crimes. Being an individual in a world of conformity has its consequences. For the ones who stay “straight and narrow”, they live their high school lives as outcasts and unpopular. They are ridiculed. They are scorned. Some are even harassed and bullied because they don’t “fit in”. Times are worse now for teenagers.

Recently, our state legislation imposed a 12:00 (midnight) curfew on adolescents cruising on the Loop. The Loop is an area between Walnut Street and Grand Avenue in downtown, Des Moines (Iowa). From Nollen Plaza to the Meredith Corporation Building, teenagers walk, ride or drive along a rectangular route. Drivers socialize with themselves. Some meet and greet with adolescents loitering around the Hamlett Flatts and Central Library. Groups of people relax and chat near Starbucks and the Hotel Marriott.

Since 1980, the Loop “visitors” contributed in downtown, Des Moines’ rising crime rate. There are incidents of fighting, assault (physical and sexual), robbery and underage drinking and smoking. Other offenses included illegal drug use and reckless driving due to random, “street races” involving cars blazing up Grand Avenue’s, straight four-lane. In 1993, four teenagers murdered a Jewish businessman who happened to be cavorting a teenage girl on the Loop. He invited them into his car by offering to buy their marijuana. He drove them out to Waterworks park where he was attacked and beaten to death.

Teenage and adult safety influenced City Council to decide on a curfew. Police have the right to stop any vehicle they believe has adolescents either operating or accompanying. Teens 17-younger are made to abide by it. If they are discovered to be in violation, those teenagers are detained and their parents notified. If the teenagers have outstanding warrants, they are taken to juvenile facility at Meyer Hall on Hull Avenue.

On paper, the curfew implementation has merit. However, it has great flaws. The police are allowed to stop any vehicle by profiling someone’s age. Racial profiling has gotten Des Moines cops in enough trouble. They are now being asked to closely monitor teenagers mixing with adults in cars and on the street. The area covered has about 20 city blocks from Third Street to Martin Luther King Way. There aren’t enough patrolmen to saturate downtown and maintain order throughout Des Moines and its dozen or so suburbs and townships. Besides, city taxpayers have to pay for this “legalized babysitting”. Other neighborhoods, namely those around Drake and Sixth Avenue, are needed far more attention.

Other reasons are abound why this curfew hasn’t worked. It hasn’t deterred the crime of prostitution. Being only a two-minute drive from downtown, the Waterworks area has become a popular spot for drug dealers, pimps, hookers and their johns. Many “transactions” are done in the woods along the river. Also, homeless camps populated the site. For some reason, police aren’t too keen on policing that district. More times or not, married men are downtown scoping underage girls for sex. They have their cash, their car and their drugs. One of the businessman’s killers was the girl he solicited. Also, some teens are employed at the local coffee shops, like Amici, Java Joe’s Coffeehouse and Starbucks. If the curfew is enforced to EVERYONE, their jobs are in jeopardy. A few people doing wrong has no business hurting everyone else.

Legally, City Council has placed police officers in the role of moral judges. Those burdens are heavy and costly when the real moral judges should be the unaware, ignorant, apathetic or dysfunctional parents.