Debate over youth curfew in Fayetteville heats up as young people, state officials weigh in

Monique John Image
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Debate over youth curfew heats up in Fayetteville
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There's a heated debate over whether the City of Fayetteville should implement a curfew for young people to curb violence.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's a heated debate over whether the City of Fayetteville should implement a curfew for young people to curb violence.

Supporters say this could be a crucial first step to make the area safer. However, experts and some young people argue it would be ineffective and counterproductive.

The debate over whether Fayetteville should adopt a citywide curfew for minors is becoming so prevalent even state officials are chiming in. State Senator Val Applewhite acknowledges stopping youth violence is a complex, wide-ranging issue, but she says we have to start somewhere.

"We don't have the answer," Applewhite said. "But I believe that this curfew is the beginning of this discussion."

Applewhite says she supports implementing a curfew for those under 18. She tried to enforce one back in 2007 when she was on Fayetteville's city council, but the council voted down that effort.

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"For our Black and brown children particularly, we don't want to continue to feed the prison industry with our children. But we know on the streets at midnight they will either be impacted by the judicial system, the criminal system, or they're gonna be dead," Applewhite said.

She argues adopting a curfew could have saved lives in the years since, and that parents need to be held more accountable:

"(I)f children are picked up and they're taken to Department of Social Services we can start to identify the problems in the home and try to engage it and perhaps provide resources," Applewhite said. "It's tragic that children think that the streets at midnight is a safer place than their home. It's not a time issue we're talking about. it's their lives."

But criminal justice experts say that while a curfew may seem like a common-sense solution for protecting young people, it won't get to the heart of the issue:

"The simple reality is, though, the majority of crimes that are committed by young people or involve young people happen immediately after school hours, or happen in the early evening," said Professor Eric See of Methodist University. "They don't happen in the middle of the night. Now, I'm certainly not going to say they never happen in the middle of the night. But it just seems to me that we wanna use our extremely limited and precious resources where we can get the biggest bang for our buck."

"(I)f you want to reduce violent crime, then you should focus on violent crime, you know, focusing on kids not being where they're supposed to be. That's a symptom. But that's not the problem," said Angela Taylor, PhD of Fayetteville State University.

One young person who lives in Fayetteville told ABC11 she opposes the curfew proposal.

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"I think the biggest problem with it is that it limits the freedom of citizens of Fayetteville," said Elizabeth Taber.

Taber, 14, says she's concerned it could harm the same marginalized people it's supposed to help.

"There is definitely a phenomenon where certain groups are over police. They are suspected of engaging in, you know, illegal activity more than other groups. So, I think that this curfew will not help that at all. I think it will exacerbate the disparities that are that is found in policing," she said.

Some criminal justice experts say city officials should consider other solutions to keep young people safe.

"There not a lot of spaces for young people to hang out, you know, so-called third spaces. And they've become fewer over time," Taylor said. "One way to address the issue would be to increase spaces like that for young people."

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