Can Curfews Be Effective in Curbing Violence?

Enforcement is key, notes a former FBI supervisor

Tom Puckett
June 03, 2020 - 4:00 am
curfew

Graffiti on a sidewalk mocking curfews in place as a result of ongoing protests/AP Photo

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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) As protest violence continued Monday evening, Buffalo has made the move to impose a curfew each evening from 8pm to 5am until Monday morning.

As the curfew took hold Tuesday evening in the city, remaining protesters were ushered out of Niagara Square and ultimately left voluntarily.

But can curfews be effective in reducing the violence?

"It's another tool that can be used by law enforcement to put a peaceful end to what's going on," says Miguel Rivera of Rivera Investigations. "Right now, I think curfews are the best thing going. Curfews should be placed, and we should all abide by it until the looting and firebombing phase comes to a halt."

Rivera says many want to put their point across peacefully, "but there are those few who will come out and loot and do things like that, it's unfortunate it gets blended in together and we have to have a curfew," explains Rivera.

Rivera says the curfew is not the only tool law enforcement has. "Our politicians need to get together, our community based officers need to get together and pool our resources and if we need to do community outreach and meetings to explain why curfews are in place and what they're trying to avoid, we need to do that," says Rivera.

Former FBI Buffalo Supervisor Bernie Tolbert says curfews can be effective, if they can be enforced. "The larger the area the curfew covers, the greater amount of time it covers, makes it much more difficult to enforce, because you need resources to do this effectively, and given time and space, that can be difficult for a municipality," explains Tolbert. "Unless you want to come down in a draconian way with a lot of people, and if you get 500 people for violating curfew and putting 500 people in jail, you don't have the space to do that." He says without the enforcement, the curfew isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Tolbert says curfews are nominally effective in stopping agitators from acting out. "The agitators will test law enforcement. They're not out there for the same reason protesters are out there, to raise awareness of an issue," says Tolbert. 

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