Miami-Dade County’s juvenile curfew: Does it work?

Miami-Dade County police announced they would begin enforcing a juvenile curfew across the county at the beginning of the summer, but it is unclear whether it works or even whether anyone has been arrested.

The law’s purpose is to reduce overnight crime and provide safety not only for juveniles but for all residents in Miami-Dade County. It prohibits anyone under age 17 from being out in a car or on foot in public between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sunday night to Thursday morning, and between midnight and 6 a.m. from Friday night through Sunday morning.

But Chris Thomas of the Miami-Dade Police Department public information office said his office has no curfew-violation numbers.

Juan Martinez, a former police officer and Marine Corps veteran, describes enforcement of the law this way. “The officer has complete discretion as to how to manage the situation at the moment, always remembering that they are dealing with a minor,” said

Juan Antonio Martinez works now as a mentor for Community Youth Against Violence, that advises families who have been cited due to the curfew.

Martinez, who is now a mentor for Community Youth Against Violence, explained that the community is also involved in making this law work. “When a cop shows up where the kid is at, it is most likely because someone from the community saw the kid and reported them,” said Martinez. “The adult could have seen the kid doing something suspicious like trying car locks or waiting on a car in an empty parking lot.”

The officer then must make sure that the person he is dealing with is with intentions to commit a crime..

“There are a few steps that a cop should do on situations like this,” said Martinez. “First, the officer approaches the individual and starts questioning. Depending on the person’s responses then, the tone of the officer may change. If the individual did not convince the cop of their intentions, then the officer can start investigating the individual’s records and could end up in possible arrest.”

The minor is taken to the police department where the officer will notify his/her parents and write a report on the arrest. If the minor is cited three or more times for not following the law, the parent or legal guardian will receive a court notice which may be accompanied by a fine of up to $500.

Adults like Martinez think that these laws can help keep children out of trouble.

“As a former police officer, I believe that this law is great to keep our streets safe from gangs and unnecessary violence,” said Martinez. “As a juvenile mentor for CYAV, I strongly believe that this is a way to help families keep their children in check and out of trouble.”

Alba Aguiriano, 48, a mother of three, said that laws like this will help keep her children away from danger. “This law is a great way to keep children safe,” said Aguiriano. “No minor should be out in the streets late anyways, and if they are, then they are up to no good.”

Alba Aguiriano gave her opinion on how this law helps her children being safe from crime. (Alexandra Moreno/SFMN)

What do teens think of this law?

Alexandra Gutierrez, 17, is a senior at North Miami Senior High School and works part-time at a retail store. She believes that the curfew law is good to help keep the kids around her area in check.

“I am Hispanic, and a woman, enough for others to use me as target at night.” said Gutierrez. “When I get out of work at 10 p.m., my parents pick me up because they don’t want anything bad to happen to me.”

Nathaly Figueroa, Aguiriano’s daughter, is 13 years old. She stated that her parents have always been strict with her and her siblings. “My parents always scare us by saying that there is too much crime outside,” said Figueroa. “And now I can’t go anywhere with my friends because they are scared.”

Even though this law is still going on and people have different opinions on it, how can the community tell if it works?

This ordinance sets the tone for trouble, but details often depend on police discretion and community input. How can anyone tell the difference between an 18-year-old (who will be exempt from this law based on his/her age) and a 16-year-old (who may not be) by their appearance?

“Looks can be deceiving,” said Martinez. “Nowadays it is hard to tell when a kid is 16 or 17, and that is the tricky part about this curfew.”

So will this law will help keep our youth safe from violence? Patrick Kline, a University of California economics professor published a study in 2013 called “The impact of Juvenile Curfew Laws,” in which he stated that despite the popularity of curfews with local governments, existing studies find little evidence to support the notion that these policies are effective at reducing crime.

“It is going to take time, but we got to give it a try and see what this curfew does for us,” said Martinez.

Alexandra Moreno was born and raised in Peru. She now lives in Miami.