Police in Denver, Colorado will begin its ‘annual active enforcement period’ of curfew laws prohibiting individuals under the age of 18 from being in public places during certain hours, Friday.
The program, called SafeNite, was launched in 1994 and prohibits juveniles from being in public during the hours between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am weeknights, and from 12:00 am to 5:00 am weekend nights.
The enforcement period will last through late September, and is conveniently divided almost evenly across the last and first three months of the fiscal year – a period used by government to calculate annual financial statements.
Officials say the measure is all about ‘public and child safety’ however, and has cited a recent spike in gang-related violence being perpetrated in part by teens as their rationalization.
“Efforts that promote safety and that aid to reduce the number of youth that enter the legal system are vital to the strength of our communities,” City Safety Director Stephanie O’Malley said.
How is issuing citations to juveniles for breaking an arbitrary curfew ordinance “reducing the number of youths that enter the legal system?”
The program is not just intended to combat gang violence, officials admit.
An O’Malley spokesperson said the enforcement program is targeted around the warmer weather of spring and summer as it correlates with schools letting out for vacation. This means more kids on the street and more citations for the department.
Juveniles who break the ordinance are taken to Denver’s juvenile services center and issued a citation of approximately $125 plus court costs.
In the past five years alone, 2,867 tickets have been issued under the ordinance, according to police records. That has meant around $35,000 in revenue for the city not counting court fees.
The program gives Denver police a license to stop anyone suspected of being a minor for questioning, which invariably will lead to additional altercations, charges, and citations for the department.
Children are exempt from the curfew if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or if they are in a motor vehicle being used in interstate travel or if they are working, traveling to work or returning from work without any stop.
Those cited for a first time are given the option of participating in a diversion program involving counseling as an alternative to entering the court system, officials say.
The Denver Center for Crime Victims urges the public to call police if they witness an unaccompanied youth on the street after curfew hours.