Youth curfew could affect under-18 students

If a proposed city-wide youth curfew currently under consideration by the Board of Aldermen passes, Yale students may be subject to the ordinance, Yale Police Department spokesman Lt. Michael Patten said Thursday.

The controversial curfew, which the board will discuss twice in the next two weeks, would require all city youths under the age of 18 to be off the streets after 10 p.m. each night — including Yale undergraduates and the hundreds of high school students who live on campus as part of the University’s Summer Session. The enforcement of a youth curfew on students at a university would be unusual, experts said, and summer program administrators said they would have to change their rules if the proposed ordinance passes.

While most Yale undergraduates are legal adults — the average age of a student in Yale College is 20 years — there were 122 undergraduates under the age of 18 at the start of the fall semester, representing about two percent of the total enrollment, according to data provided by the Office of Institutional Research. According to the proposed ordinance, they would have to be in their residential colleges between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. or risk receiving a $75 fine from police.

Patten said the YPD does not yet have plans to address the curfew or its enforcement because the proposal is still under consideration by the board. But if the proposal does pass in some form, Yale students will be affected by it in the same way it affects all city residents.

“I don’t think your status as a Yale student changes how the law is enforced,” he said. “It shouldn’t, anyway.”

But Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01, who was one of the four aldermen who sponsored the curfew proposal, said it is likely that Yale students will not have to worry about the curfew. Since most Yale students are over 18, police will probably not be on the lookout for curfew violators on campus, she said.

“Because most Yale students are 18 or above … it would almost be a waste of their time [to stop students],” Chen said. “If the Yale students were just hanging out on campus, it’s likely that officers will not stop them for the curfew.”

Although only a small fraction of the Yale student body might be affected by the curfew, it would have a much more significant impact on the University’s Summer Session, in which students can live on campus and take Yale courses during the summer after their junior or senior year in high school.

About 200 students typically participate in the program, and while some of them are over 18, many of them are not, Summer Session Master and Calhoun Dean Stephen Lassonde said.

While the Summer Session has its own curfew — 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on weekends — the proposed curfew is earlier, which could be “problematic,” Lassonde said.

The University would have to adjust its curfew to abide by the city’s ruling if the proposal passes, he added, and the YPD would probably have to enforce it.

“It would be difficult for them to say, ‘You look like you’re a student, and you don’t,’” Lassonde said.

While New Haven’s proposed curfew drew questions about its constitutionality last month, such measures are in effect elsewhere in the country. In Washington, D.C., youths under the age of 17 must be off the streets after 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Dolores Stafford, chief of the George Washington University Police Department, said students at GWU are not significantly affected by the city’s curfew and the University Police Department does not enforce it, although students can be cited by the Metropolitan Police Department if they are off-campus.

“It doesn’t affect us,” she said in an e-mail. “But I understand from other law enforcement folks that they believe it has been beneficial to reducing crimes in some neighborhoods in the city.”

Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, said the implementation of New Haven’s curfew would be very unusual if the city applies it to Yale students.

“I’ve never heard of a curfew being applied to a university, except in riot circumstances,” he said.

“[Because of the small] odds that a Yale student would be contributing to the violence in the city, it’s almost a ludicrous idea.”

Yale students expressed surprise that the curfew may affect the University, and many said the curfew would have no reason to be applied to Yale students.

Elizabeth Claus ’10, who is 17 and would be subject to the curfew, said the ordinance would create a serious inconvenience for students who would not be able to leave their colleges late at night.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “There are many club meetings that start at 10:00 p.m.”

But Aya Shoshan ’10 said although the curfew could create inconveniences — especially for admitted students visiting for Bulldog Days, for instance — the YPD would have little choice but to enforce the law on campus.

“How can they tell between a Yale student and anyone else?” she said.

The proposed ordinance, offered by four aldermen in September in an effort to address a rash of youth violence over the summer, has received mixed reaction from the local community, including heavy criticism from city youths at a public hearing at Hillhouse High School Wednesday night.

On Thursday night, the Board of Aldermen heard testimony from youths at Wilbur Cross High School.

While some students backed the proposed ordinance, and most agreed the city must take action to curb violence, the most common reaction was largely the same as that on Wednesday night — that youths want jobs, after-school activities and other programs to give them something to do, not a curfew.

The board will hold another public hearing — this time open to all residents instead of just youths — on Dec. 6 at City Hall, and the aldermen will deliberate or hear more public testimony on Dec. 13. The proposal would amend the city’s existing curfew law, which is not enforced.

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