Curfew not the answer

The debate about the need for a tougher curfew in Red Deer is really a discussion about quality parenting, programs for youth and responsive policing.

The debate about the need for a tougher curfew in Red Deer is really a discussion about quality parenting, programs for youth and responsive policing.

Earlier this week, Red Deer city council decided to leave the city’s rarely-enforced 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. curfew as it is. A proposal to expand the curfew time for youth under 16 from the current 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. window was refused by council.

But council did recognize there are problems and encouraged the push for solutions: it wants city administration and the new Crime Prevention Advisory Committee to get to the root of the problem of wayward youth, with the help of other interested groups in the community.

It’s a tall order, but one well worth the effort.

The curfew bylaw was being re-examined, ultimately, as the result of concerns expressed by residents in Northwood Estates.

A petition urging a change in the curfew structure drew 651 signatures after a flurry of complaints about the behaviour of young people in that north-side community.

Neighbours felt threatened, were concerned about protecting their property, and worried about youth activity having an impact on their property values. Those are the kinds of concerns that should be heeded: violence, property crime and a feeling of diminished safety will ripple through a community.

The Crime Prevention Advisory Committee subsequently proposed to council that the curfew be expanded and that the city look at ways to identify and help youth at risk.

The ultimate thrust of the council’s direction — to get young people on the right path — actually makes the curfew discussion moot.

So too does the reality that police use the 11-year-old Red Deer curfew more to guide young people than to punish them. Although it is certainly a useful tool available to police — it allows them to ask for identification, engage young people in conversation and even take them home — it has rarely been used to issue tickets. Red Deer RCMP Supt. Brian Simpson is in favour of community initiatives to solve youth crime problems.

Issuing tickets and restricting basic rights and freedoms should be far from the heart of this discussion. Despite a growing push to stop youth-related crime with curfews — at least eight Central Alberta communities have curfews, and others are considering them — there is no evidence that curfews actually work.

A study in Maryland’s Prince George County found that there was little or no impact on youth crime complaints or arrests as a result of imposing a curfew. A similar study by California’s Centre on Juvenile and Criminal Justice came to much the same conclusion. Even in communities where a weekday daytime curfew is in effect, and where police can actually hold curfew-breakers, there is no sign that youth crime has diminished.

So the better path is the one proposed by city council: a collaborative effort between the Crime Prevention Advisory Committee, the city, and various youth agencies, organizations and community resource groups.

Some communities include a parental responsibility ordinance in their version of Red Deer’s Community Standards Bylaw.

Other communities have introduced behavioural health programs for families of children at risk. The programs include life-skills coaching, education and employment help, and parenting assistance.

In Rimbey a few years ago, council chose not to implement a curfew, instead focusing on establishing facilities and programs for local youth.

In each case, the community chose the constructive path rather than the punitive one. Red Deer is following a good model in pursuing similar solutions.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Just Posted

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Photos: Lunchtime tunes on Alexander Way

Final concert of the summer

Clearwater regional firefighters in B.C.

Crew operating west of Prince George

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth last weekend

WATCH: Feasting at Red Deer Ribfest this weekend

Ribfest runs until Sunday at Rotary Recreation Park

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

OTTAWA — Canadians are generally supportive of current immigration levels, a survey… Continue reading

Quebec announces plan to compensate taxi drivers after Uber’s arrival

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has outlined how it intends to compensate… Continue reading

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

OTTAWA — The loss of Saudi Arabian resident physicians in Canada’s hospitals… Continue reading

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Death Valley worker has seen highest, lowest temperatures

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of tourists descend on Death Valley each summer… Continue reading

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

BANFF, Alta. — An internationally known ski resort in Banff National Park… Continue reading

Folk singer Ian Tyson cancels show due to ‘serious medical situation’

TORONTO — Canadian folk singer-songwriter Ian Tyson has cancelled his appearance at… Continue reading

Judge lifts publication ban, revealing details about Fredericton shooting

FREDERICTON — Newly released documents reveal how last week’s deadly attack unfolded… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month