The Metropolitan Police Department understands the importance of protecting children in today's world. The following resources provide valuable information and practical strategies to safeguard children. Let's explore the key strategies for keeping kids safe and empowering them to thrive in a secure environment.
DC's Curfew Law: Know the Facts
The District of Columbia now has a curfew for all persons under the age of 17. It is important for you and your family to know what the law says, how it is being enforced, and what alternative programs there are for young people.
What does the law say?
The Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 (DC Code 2-1541 et. seq.) states that persons under the age of 17 cannot remain in or on a street, park or other outdoor public place, in a vehicle or on the premises of any establishment within the District of Columbia during curfew hours, unless they are involved in certain exempted activities.
What are the curfew hours?
For the months of September through June:
- Curfew begins at 11 pm on Sunday through Thursday nights, and continues until 6 am the following day
- Curfew hours are 12:01 am to 6 am on Saturday and Sunday (curfew on "Friday night" begins at 12:01 am Saturday; curfew on "Saturday night" begins at 12:01 am Sunday)
During July and August only:
Curfew hours are 12:01 am to 6 am, seven days a week
Does the curfew law apply to non-District residents?
Yes. The curfew law applies to all persons under the age of 17 who are in the District of Columbia during curfew hours. This includes both District residents as well as young people who reside elsewhere.
What are the penalties for violating the law?
A parent or legal guardian of a juvenile under the age of 17 commits an offense if he or she knowingly permits, or by insufficient control allows, the minor to violate the curfew law. Any adult who violates the Juvenile Curfew Act is subject to a fine not to exceed $500 or community service. A minor who violates curfew may be ordered to perform up to 25 hours of community service.
Persons under the age of 17 are exempt from curfew if they:
- Accompany a parent or guardian
- Complete an errand at the direction of a parent or guardian, without detour or stop
- Ride in a motor vehicle involved in interstate travel
- Work or return home from a job, without detour or stop
- Become involved in an emergency
- Stand on a sidewalk that joins their residence or the residence of a next-door neighbor, if the neighbor did not complain to police
- Attend an official school, religious, or other recreational activity sponsored by the District of Columbia, a civic organization, or other similar group that takes responsibility for the juvenile (this includes traveling to and from the activity)
- Exercise their First Amendment rights protected by the US Constitution, including the free exercise of speech, religion, and right of assembly
Why is the curfew law being enforced now?
Passed in 1995, DC's curfew law was set up to protect the health and safety of young people and our communities. After the law was challenged in court, MPD stopped enforcement until the court decided whether the law was constitutional. In June 1999, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the law to be constitutional. The District began enforcing the law again in the fall of 1999.
What alternative programs are there for young people?
The District of Columbia has a variety of programs and centers that serve young people seeking alternatives to being on the streets, including social, educational, recreational, and counseling services. For more programs, call the District's Answers Please! helpline at (202) INFO-211 (463-6211) or online at answersplease.dc.gov.
For more information on programs and safety tips for young people, contact:
DC's Child Restraint Law
DC law requires that any child up to 16 years of age must be in a properly installed child safety seat or restrained in a seat belt. Additionally, children under 8 years of age must be properly seated in an installed infant, convertible (toddler) or booster child seat, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Booster seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belts.
The District of Columbia does not have a law preventing children from riding in the front seat, but we recommend that all children ride in the back seat until the age of 13.
The police can stop a driver in the District solely for not having a child properly restrained.
The following penalties are possible:
First Time: Offenders given choice of
- Paying a $75 fine
- Attending a Child Restraint Safety Class ($25 fee)
Second Time: Both penalties are mandatory
- Paying a $75 fine and
- Attending a Child Restraint Safety Class ($25 fee)
Third Time: Paying a $125 fine
Fourth or more: Paying a $150 fine
Motorists may contest the notice of infraction through the Department of Motor Vehicles, Adjudication Services.
Safety For Children - Family Rules
Establishing a system of "family rules" about personal safety is a good way to teach children the difference between safe and unsafe situations. Many families already have rules about bedtime, TV watching, chores, and the like. By adopting rules about personal safety, parents can teach good habits through reinforcement and repetition without generating excessive fear. The following suggestions for personal safety rules can be incorporated into a family routine.
- Children should know their complete home address, telephone number including area code, and parents' first and last names.
- If children are old enough to answer the telephone, they should be taught how to dial 911.
- Children should be taught not to reveal any personal information about themselves or their family (their name, address, school) over the phone or to a stranger without a parent's permission.
- If children are home alone and answer the telephone, teach them to say that the parent cannot come to the phone right now and take a message, or ask the person to call again later.
- Have a "code" worked out with your children if you don't want them to answer any telephone calls but yours when they are home alone.
- Teach your children not to open the door until they know the identity of the person knocking. Then teach them to whom they are allowed to open the door to. Just because they know the person at the door does not mean they should open the door to them.
- Children should be taught how to lock and unlock the doors in the home.
- Establish a system of accountability. Learn the full names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your children's friends and parents. Verify the information with the parents of your child's friend. Learn the "rules" of the friends' houses. Who will be there when your child is there? The parents? Other children? Other neighbors? Will the children be alone?
- Know your children's routes to and from school, the playground, best friends' houses. Insist that the children stick to that route, NO SHORTCUTS! If you have to look for the children, you will know where to begin.
- Children need to be taught never to go anywhere with anyone, on foot or in a vehicle, without parent permission. This includes getting permission a second time if plans change and calling home for permission to go to a different friend's houses or play location.
- Teach children not to play in isolated areas of parks and playgrounds. The "buddy" system should be used to enter public restrooms.
- Teach your children what to do if they are walking to school or to a friend's house and they are being bothered or followed. Walk these common routes with your children and point out safe locations. A safe location can be a school, library, police station, store, or neighbor's house, anywhere that they can find a responsible adult or lots of people.
- Knocking on the door of a stranger is a last resort. If the child has no other choice because someone is bothering or following them, teach them to select a house with lights on at night or a house with children's toys visible. Teach the child to ask the person who answers the door to phone the police because they are being followed or bothered BUT teach them NOT to go inside a stranger's house.
- If there is no safe place for your child to receive help, teach your child to run away as fast as possible, screaming and yelling for help to attract as much attention as possible.
- Teach your child not to approach a car that stops and asks for help or directions. Most responsible adults would not ask a small child for directions anyway. If the car follows them or anyone gets out of the car and approaches them, teach them to run to a safe place screaming and yelling as fast as they can.
Bad Guy Rules
- Teach children that bad guys might act nice and even offer gifts of toys or money. Make sure that they know NOT to accept gifts from strangers.
- Teach children that bad guys lie and that they should not believe them. Especially if the stranger tells them things like, "Your mom told me to pick you up after school," or "Can you help me find my lost puppy?"
- Bad guys even use threats like, "I'll hurt your mother if you don't come with me right now."
- Teach children that bad guys are people who ask them to violate family rules, including someone telling your child that they don't need permission to get a ride home, or that it is okay to come into a house without mom's permission, or, "Let's keep this a secret."
This information was provided by the Sex Offender Registry Unit:
Metropolitan Police Department Sex Offender Registry Unit (SORU)
300 Indiana Avenue, NW
Phone: (202) 727-4407
Fax: (202) 727-9292
Email: [email protected]
In accordance with enactment of the Sex Offender Registration Act of 1999, this information is being provided to the community. Unlawful use of this information to threaten, intimidate, harass, or injure a registered sex offender is prohibited and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Funding for this program was provided through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. The title of this grant is the National Sex Offender Registry Project (98-NR-CX-K002).
Understanding and Avoiding Gangs
Are you a PARENT whose child might be involved with a gang?
Are you a STUDENT who wants to get out of a gang?
Do you want to LEARN more about gangs in DC?
Joining a gang or crew can give you a sense of belonging and acceptance, but often being associated with one can lead to dangerous consequences. Here are some ways to explore alternatives to gang membership and how to safely “leave” a gang if you’re already involved. Some of these steps can take time, but with dedication and the support of your family, you can change your life.
What is a Gang or Crew?
A gang is a group of individuals that band together for a common cause and are involved in criminal activity. Many gangs are highly organized and operate across state lines. A crew is a more loosely-knit group, often based on a neighborhood. These are usually individuals who grew up in or who have family roots in that neighborhood. Youths are often recruited by older members to commit criminal acts, because the adults feel that laws are more lenient on juveniles. Regardless of gang or crew affiliation, both groups are often associated with a variety of crimes, including narcotics trafficking, gun violations, assaults, and even homicides. Gang violence is a community problem.
What Can Parents Do?
- Talk to your children openly and honestly. Tell them you do not approve of gangs. Explain what might happen if they join a gang. Tell them that they could be physically harmed or pressured into committing criminal acts that could result in their arrest. Tell them that they could lose their lives.
- Make sure your children are involved in healthy, supervised activities, especially after school.
- Find out where your children go in their free time. Get to know your children’s friends and their parents.
- Get involved with your children’s education and their schools. Encourage them to study and stay in school.
Get information about the gangs and crews in your neighborhood. Find out what gang members wear and what gang signs and symbols (such as tattoos, colors, hair and dress styles, etc.) mean. If you see your children wearing gang-style clothing or using gang symbols, or if you suspect your child is getting involved with a gang, take action fast. A list of community organizations to call are below.
- Alliance of Concerned Men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 903-1002
- Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 518-6737
- Latin American Youth Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 319-2225
- Peaceoholics Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 562-1892 or 562-1971
- East of the River (Marshall Heights) Collaborative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 397-7300
- Edgewood/Brookland Collaborative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 832-9400
- Far South East Collaborative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(202) 889-1425
- Georgia Avenue/Rock Creek East Collaborative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202)722-1815
- Healthy Families Thriving Communities . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 299-0900
- North Capital Collaborative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 588-1800
- South Washington/West of the River Collaborative . . . . . . .. . . . (202) 488-799
- Tale of the Tape Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (202) 588-5857
Signs of Possible Gang Involvement
Below are some indicators of possible gang involvement, but these characteristics should not be used as the basis for assuming someone is associated with a gang or crew:
- Cutting classes at school. Gangs/crews may host secret “skip parties” during school hours. Activities at these parties often include sex, alcohol consumption, narcotics use, and other illegal and dangerous activities.
- Decline in grades
- Change in demeanor (becoming disrespectful and not obeying rules at home)
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Staying out later than usual
- Possession of weapons
- Sudden change of dress style (more of a specific color). Gang/crew members usually adopt a certain way of dress. In some cases, the clothing may display gang names, members’ nicknames, numbers, street names, etc.
- Friends of questionable character
- Pictures with friends displaying hand signs and or bandanas
- Inscribing gang graffiti on books, folders, desks, and walls
- Tattoos in the name of a gang
What Can Students Do?
- Tell your parents, a school counselor, or a police officer immediately if you are approached by a gang member attempting to recruit you. Let gang members know you respect them but you are not interested in joining a gang.
- Avoid areas where gang members hang out.
- Attend school regularly and work hard. Think about the future—what kind of job would you like? What do you have to do to get that job?
- Find others who want to stay out of gangs. Develop friendships with peers you trust.
- Remove yourself from the area. Gradually limit your involvement with other known gang members. The less you are in the area, the better. Find activities to keep you occupied and away from that area.
- Find a job in another neighborhood, or get involved in school activities or community organizations. Even if it is a part-time job, it will help in the process of breaking that gang connection. If a young person is busy and constructively engaged, he/she will not need the false self-esteem a gang provides.
- If you don’t like your school, talk to your parents about transferring to another school or moving to another neighborhood. In some cases, this may be necessary to remove yourself from the gang permanently.
Going Back to School Safely
The Metropolitan Police Department is looking forward to a safe school year and wants to help parents ensure their children are well-educated on how to get to and from their school safely.
- Never run into the street; when you come to the curb, STOP; then look both ways. Never run between cars into the street.
- Be sure to cross the street at a marked cross walk or where the crossing guard is. Only walk when the signal flashes the walk sign or when a crossing guard says it’s okay.
- Walk on the sidewalk, not in the street.
- Wear clothing that allows drivers and people to see you. That means no dark clothes after dark or early in the morning. If you have to be out in the dark, be sure to put reflective tape on your coat.
- Don’t talk to strangers, take anything from them, or go anywhere with them. If a stranger approaches you, RUN! Scream! Tell an adult.
- Never take a short cut through the woods or alleys.
- Walk to school with a partner.
- If you see a gun or drugs, stop. Don’t touch it. Tell an adult!
- Always wear a bike helmet.
- Learn and use the rules of the road — stay on the right side of the road and don’t swerve in and out of the lane.
- Avoid riding your bike when it is dark or almost dark outside. If you do, be sure to have lights and reflectors on your bike.
- Wait for the bus in a safe place, away from traffic and the street.
- Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver opens the door.
- Don’t run into the street in front of or behind the bus.
- When you get off the bus, take five giant steps away from the bus, out of the danger zone.
- Cross in front of the bus, and make sure you maintain eye contact with the driver.
- Never go back for anything.
- Never bend down near or under the bus.
- While on the bus, sit quietly in your seat and follow the driver's instructions on bus safety.
- Always wear a seat belt.
- Don’t walk between parked cars.
- Look both ways when crossing an alley — some drivers don’t pay attention when exiting an alley.
School Safety Resources
A variety of informative and helpful resources on the topic of school violence and safety are listed below. The following sites are not endorsed by the Metropolitan Police Department. They are intended to provide parents, students, teachers and others with a range of information and resources they can use to help address this serious issue.
Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in US Schools http://www.ncjrs.gov/school/178265.pdf
A guide for schools and law enforcement agencies from the National Institute of Justice.
Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence http://www.colorado.edu/cspv/safeschools/index.html
This Colorado-based program focuses on the nexus between safe communities and safe schools.
Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/gtss.html
This comprehensive document, published by the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice, offers early warning, prevention, intervention and crisis response information.
National Association for School Resource Officers https://www.nasro.org/
The official website of the nation's leading not-for-profit organization for school security/safety professionals offers a variety of information and resources.
Safe Schools Coalition http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/
A partnership of organizations that seek to promote tolerance in schools by providing resources for students, parents, schools and communities.
School Safety Resources http://www.ojjdp.gov/search/topiclist.asp
Various school safety resources assembled by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Student Pledge Against Gun Violence http://www.pledge.org/
This nationwide campaign is designed to encourage middle school and high school students to reject gun violence.
For more information or to report suspicious activity, contact the National Crime Prevention Council Online Resource Center