Liberty, Curfews, and My Dart Nights
The Post-Dispatch has a story today about the proposal for University City to enforce a stricter curfew in the Loop district. Now, this is something I am qualified to write about, because I know the Loop pretty damned well. I have played darts at Blueberry Hill almost every Wednesday night since 1996, and that is where I first met my wife. But, despite my love of the Loop, and my full recognition of its importance to University City (where we live), I don’t know whether I support an enhanced curfew.
A curfew will only move a problem, not solve it. The Galleria moved its problem (with loitering young people, some committing crimes) to the Loop by instituting a curfew. Now the Loop wants to move the problem somewhere else. If you are a Loop business owner, solving the problem might be ideal — but moving it is fine, too. In the bigger picture, though, simply moving it is not fine.
I am not going to go on about violating anyone’s rights, because I agree with the laws that basically don’t allow a lot of rights until you turn 18. I think people tend to turn to curfews as a solution because there is not much else that can be done about large groups of young people hanging out in places they shouldn’t be. From the article:
The business leaders would like University City to provide more recreation programs for young people and encourage them to be with their families.
Neither of these things is really the responsibility of government — especially the latter. As for providing more recreation opportunities, I guess they could keep the rec center open later, but do we really think most of these kids live in University City, and hence come from families that pay taxes that support the rec center? The kids in question come from all over, and keeping the rec center open quite late — not to mention staffing it with security — would cost U. City taxpayers a lot of money. Perhaps it would be money well spent if it keeps people coming into the Loop and paying sales taxes. Perhaps not. But let’s be honest — hanging out in a hip place like the Loop is part of the fun for the kids, and some rec league isn’t going to replace that.
There is a thin line between kids harmlessly hanging out and aggressive youths making people feel uncomfortable — via panhandling, catcalls, or whatever. But making people feel uncomfortable is not necessarily a crime. It may, however, keep people away, which is what the Loop business owners fear. I can’t fathom having been allowed to hang out in the Loop late at night with my friends when I was 15. I can’t fathom allowing my son to do it when he is 15. But I am not stupid enough to think that all of these kids have Norman Rockwell homes and schools awaiting them when they do finally go home. I don’t know what the answer is. For the Loop, it may be a curfew. For our entire area, it is much more difficult.
I will, however, enthusiastically support a curfew if the police could arrest my friend Jimmy for violating it just once, even though he is now 37.