The data in Keegan Kyle’s curfew sweep story, “Hundreds of Kids Arrested on an Unproven Hunch,” raise two troubling issues.

The first is a purely practical one: Why is San Diego spending so much of the police department’s time and dwindling resources on a program that is at best unproven and at worst counterproductive? In this era of diminishing funding for government programs, shouldn’t there be some minimum evidence of effectiveness and accountability before the department launches large-scale programs like the curfew sweep?

The second issue Kyle’s story raises is more troubling. What about the civil rights implications of targeting the parts of San Diego where there is the most poverty and highest number of people of color?

As Kyle reports, “police have more than tripled curfew arrests in the last five years, forcing hundreds of more children to pay fines, participate in weeks-long diversion courses or fight police in court.”

Studies have shown that early contact with the criminal justice system can lead to a cycle of incarceration. As Margaret Dooley-Sammuli of the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out “This can easily have the effect of criminalizing a whole generation of young people.” This begs the question of whether the curfew arrests are an entry point into the cradle-to-prison pipeline.

The Mid-City CAN Peace Promotion Momentum Team has been working to address these concerns. It is seeking to create a safe City Heights that doesn’t criminalize a neighborhood or an age group. For more information visit our website or contact us.

Diana Ross is the collaborative director at Mid-City CAN.

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