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A curfew can be one of the following:

  1. An order by the government for certain persons to return home before a certain time. It can either be to maintain public order (such as that after the 2003 North America blackout), or to suppress targeted groups (such as the one Adolf Hitler enacted on Jewish people in Nazi Germany). Curfews have long been directed at certain groups in many cities or states, such Japanese-American university students on the West Coast during World War II, African-Americans in many towns during the time of Jim Crow laws, or people younger than a certain age (usually within a few years either side of 18) in many towns of the U.S. since the 1980s. Some jurisdictions have also proposed "daytime curfews" that would prevent high school-age youth from visiting public places during school hours or even during immediate after-school hours.
  2. In baseball, a time after which a game must end, or play be suspended. For example, in the American League the curfew rule for many years decreed that no inning could begin after 1 A.M. local time.
  3. LaGuardia Airport in New York City operates a rule that after a certain hour, incoming flights must be redirected to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey due to noise restrictions.

The word comes from Anglo-Norman via Middle English, originally an instruction to cover and damp down the fires before retiring, "couvre feu"; a very necessary precaution when cities were filled with wooden houses having thatched roofs.

Teen curfew

Teen curfew is an "order" from the government given to teens (usually under 18) to not be loitering the streets at a specific time. While in theory curfews are supposed to prevent juvenile crime from happening, teen curfews are a controversial topic. Legal guardians can make curfews for their teens as well i.e. to return home before a certain time, usually from a party or such. This is less formal than to a government but more common among teenagers.

Studies have shown that many teenagers engage in irresponsible and/or illegal activities at night time. Advocates of curfews believe that forbidding teens to be out late at night will prevent teenage crime as well as prevent others from being victims. While proponents of curfews feel this may be unfair to well-behaved teens, they also feel that communities have a responsibility to protect all of their citizens.

Opponents of curfews say that they are ineffective, pointing to statistics showing that most juvenile crimes occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. usually right after school days end, and many teens have little to do then but loiter. Advocates of curfews say that schools should offer more interesting extracurricular activities that interest them to prevent loitering in the first place.

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