This fall the Paterson, New Jersey City Council asked residents to vote on whether they
would support a youth curfew ordinance. The Council did not present any
details or any kind of plan, and the only relevant court case in New Jersey
resulted in a ruling against curfews.
Unfortunately, Paterson voters
overwhelmingly supported the proposed curfew, forcing NYRA-Paterson to take
NYRA-Paterson’s president Fredrick Mutooni attended a City Council meeting,
where he declared the curfew was “a political ploy for the mayor and three
current Council members to be re-elected.” A lawyer for the city later
informed Mutooni that the curfew was illegal, but many Paterson politicians
refute this claim. Mutooni has declared his candidacy for the Paterson City Council, and he
must collect 609 signatures for his name to appear on the ballot. As of New
Year’s Day, Mutooni had collected 165 signatures. He faces a difficult,
uphill battle, but he is committed to the cause, and the truth is on his
side. NYRA cannot formally endorse any political candidate, but it is clear
that Mutooni feels passionately about youth rights, and his views are
largely in line with NYRA’s platform.
Youth curfews, as the name indicates, are laws that make it illegal for
young people to be outside of their homes during certain hours. Studies
have shown that these authoritarian laws do not reduce crime. They fill
jail cells with innocent people and divert the attention of law enforcement.
Youth curfews tend to be enforced most often in predominantly black and
Latino neighborhoods. In 1996, Paterson voted in favor of a curfew but did
nothing. Mutooni said, “There is no place to lock up thousands of youth.”