St. Peters, Mo. says Curfew Makes Town Safer

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ST. PETERS - As the city of Columbia considers a curfew for its teens and children, St. Peters, Mo. said its curfew has made the town safer.

"We don't have problems with teenagers running around in our city and it's because the curfew has been so well-established over the last couple of years and we enforce it," said St. Peters police officer Melissa Doss. "So the teenagers all know that if they're out past curfew, that officers will be stopping them."

According to Doss, the curfew has been in effect for more than 15 years and the public has been very supportive of it.

"Some parents have even said they really like it because then they don't have to be the bad guy with their kids and say, well you're curfew is midnight," Doss said. "You can say sorry that's what the law is."

In St. Peters, juveniles under 17 can't be out past 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. On Saturdays and Sundays, however, the curfew is midnight. 

Doss said it not only prevents crimes by keeping teens off the streets, but also helps solve crimes. If police officers see a person who looks under 17 out past curfew, they approach that possible teen and record his or her name. The names give police a list of potential suspects should a crime be committed. 

But, not everyone believes the curfew would be beneficial in Columbia.

Columbia City Council member Michael Trapp pointed to the First Amendment and the "right to assemble." He also said it could further burden police. Additionally, he said studies have proven curfews don't work.

"Curfews have not been shown to be helpful to lower the crime rate or to lower juvenile victimization," said Trapp. "We do know from strong long-time social science research that curfews are bad for the individual children involved."

But, Doss said in St. Peters, the curfew has actually made the work of police easier. She said it gives police the reason they need to approach teenagers and ask them to go home.

St. Peters' crime rate is 30.85 crimes per 1,000 people, while Columbia's crime rate is 47.1 crimes per 1,000 people. But, Columbia and St. Peters have different socio-economics. Columbia is a stand-alone city, while St. Peters is an affluent suburb.

St. Peters police said a curfew in Columbia would be a good idea.

"I think it's a good idea for any city to have a curfew," said Doss. "In fact, myself and a few officers were very surprised that there are cities still out there that don't have curfews. I think it's extremely beneficial to a city." 

Columbia's curfew proposal came after four shootings in two weeks. During the shooting near Tenth Street and Broadway, "children were running toward danger rather than away from it," said Columbia police Joe Bernhard.

This lead Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton to propose the curfew.

"A curfew has two goals. One is to reduce the amount of violence and the other is to protect our kids," said city manager Mike Matthes.

According to Matthes, the city has set up a task force to weigh the pros and cons of a curfew. It was looking at about 30 other cities to see if curfews are working there. Mattes said over half them do.

In Missouri, at least seven cities and towns have curfews, including Chesterfield, Chillicothe, Kansas City, St. Charles, St. Joseph, University City and St. Peters.

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