The New Orleans Police Department will start enforcing the city-wide summer curfew on children in response to recent increases in car break-ins and thefts, and the recent shooting death of a woman in Mid-City, allegedly at the hands of a 17-year-old. The curfew begins Monday, June 3.
Under the curfew, children 16 and under will not be allowed in public without an adult after 9 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekend nights. Kids found breaking curfew will be taken into police custody and detained at the Covenant House shelter if their parents can’t be reached. If a child is picked up three times, parents will face penalties.
The city’s summer curfew has been enforced unevenly over the years. This year, officials say police will be taking it seriously. Mayor Latoya Cantrell said the curfew is meant to keep kids safe.
"We love them, but you know, we also have to have some tough love," Cantrell said at a press conference Wednesday.
But data shows despite the recent incidents, youth arrests are actually down this year, compared to the same time last year. And national research shows youth curfews do not reduce crime, but they do increase racial profiling.
Educator Leroy Crawford has spent years working with incarcerated youth. He worries police interactions with youth breaking curfew could escalate.
"So you see three or four black kids hanging outside by a particular neighborhood, will you stop them now?" Crawford asked. "So then, you know some kids, what happens if they run? What happens now? Do you think that kid may have a weapon?"
Crawford also worries that Covenant House will not be prepared to handle the influx of young people who are picked up by police, and that parents called to pick up their children will struggle to make the trip to the shelter, which is in the Central Business District. Twenty percent of New Orleanians do not have access to a car.
"This burden and this targetting is going to fall almost entirely on black children and their families," Aaron Clark-Rizzio directs the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights, which acts as New Orleans' juvenile public defender. He worries about how penalities on parents could impact families.
"It's going to connect families to the court system - that's going to take families away from their ability to work on days that they need to be in court, children away from school when they need to be here. It could add additional burdens on them to participate in programming, which increases the need to find transportation," Clark-Rizzio said.
Crawford, along with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, is calling on the city to direct more resources to youth programing, instead of enforcing the curfew.