The imposition of a curfew is dreaded by all teenagers. A fixed time that they have to be home by, curtailing hanging out with their friends.
It’s the cause of friction between many young adults and their parents. But a host of towns throughout Switzerland have taken the idea of curfews to a whole other level – by local councils. Starting in 2006 in the resort town of Interlaken, the council ruled that under-16s had to be home by 10PM unless escorted by their parents.
The move was brought about in an effort to reduce noise, litter and vandalism, which local authorities blame on underage drinking. Unsurprisingly, bans like this are not popular with those directly affected – the under-16s. When Kehrsatz, introduced the curfew earlier this year, local teenagers braced below-zero temperatures, hosting an all-night party in defiance. One boy expressed his thoughts, saying, “I don’t think this curfew is necessary. And it anyway, it should be the parents who decide, not the town council.”
…If youngsters are found out, unsupervised, their parents are contacted…
And it’s not just Switzerland where public curfews on teenagers are being enforced. In 2008, the Cornish town of Redruth introduced, ‘Operation Goodnight’ to help tackle anti-social behaviour. The scheme sees that all under-15s out unsupervised after 9PM (8PM for under-10s) are stopped by police and local authorities. If youngsters are found out, unsupervised, their parents are contacted, with police telling them that their children should not be out so late. If parents take no action and do not cooperate, social services will be brought in.
At the launch of ‘Operation Goodnight’ Julian Commons, Penwith council’s anti-social behaviour coordinator, welcomed the ban saying: “While the vast majority of parents are extremely responsible, we need to encourage all parents to take responsibility for their children so that the community is a safer place for everyone.”
…under-16s are restricted from certain areas in the city…
More recently, Bangor in North Wales put through a dispersal order stating that under-16s are restricted from certain areas in the city centre between 9PM and 6AM unless accompanied by a parent or responsible adult over 18. The order, which came into effect last June was, like the ban in Redruth, a measure to tackle anti-social behaviour such as groups drinking in the street. Failure to comply with the ban could result in a fine of up to £2,500 or three months in prison.
Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch told the BBC that someone being, “fined or imprisoned for walking through the town centre simply because you are 15 and not accompanied by a parent I simply madness”. However, police insist that the order would not result in all under-16s from being removed, but would give them the power to do so if necessary.
…late-night noise and vandalism has dropped…
However, unpopular as they are among young people, is there some sense to such wide-scale public curfews? Authorities in Interlaken say that since the ban came into place late-night noise and vandalism has dropped. But would such a curfew in London have helped prevent the London riots that swept through the capital nearly two years ago? Statistics published by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice showed that 26% of those tried for rioting were aged between 10-17; 90% were under 21.
At the time Home Secretary Theresa May suggested that police be given powers to bar anyone from areas for a period of time if there was a risk of public disorder – including a curfew imposed on under-16s. In a speech Mrs May said: “It’s something we’re going to look at to address whether, and to what extend, we may need to change the law.” Since the August riots in 2011 no move has been made to bring about such changes, but perhaps it is just a matter of time.