Deterrent Effect of Curfew Enforcement: Operation Nightwatch in St. Louis, 2003-2005 (ICPSR 4302)

Version Date: Nov 14, 2005 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Lynn S. Urban, University of Missouri at St. Louis. Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

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This study was conducted between December 2003 and January 2005, to determine if the curfew check program in St. Louis, Missouri, known as Nightwatch, was meeting its stated goals of reducing recidivism and victimization among juvenile offenders. The study was conducted using a pretest and two post-tests on an experimental group and a comparison group. The pretest (Time 1) was given to 118 juveniles. The first post-test (Time 2) was completed by 78 juveniles and the second post-test (Time 3) was completed by 37 juveniles. The tests were designed to measure the respondents' perceptions of certainty of punishment, as well as to measure their out of home activities. Important variables included in the study are levels of parental supervision, self-reported behaviors of the juvenile respondent, perceived severity of punishments, measures of impulsiveness, and self-reported victimization of the respondent, as well as variables related to the Nightwatch program, including the number of visits, sanctions or rewards received by the respondent.

Urban, Lynn S. Deterrent Effect of Curfew Enforcement: Operation Nightwatch in St. Louis, 2003-2005. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005-11-14.

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2004-IJ-CX-0008)


Access to these data is restricted. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete a Restricted Data Use Agreement, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
2003-12 -- 2005-01
2003-12 -- 2005-01 (December 2003--January 2005)

This data collection provides data for the outcomes evaluation. Data from the process evaluation are not included.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the curfew check program in St. Louis, Missouri, known as Nightwatch, by determining whether the program meets its stated goals of reducing recidivism and victimization, as well as the mechanism by which this is accomplished. This research sought to assess how the use of graduated sanctioning affects a juvenile's perceptions of the certainty and severity of punishment, and whether different formal punishments invoke different perceptions.

To evaluate the impact of Nightwatch on recidivism and victimization, the study administered a pretest and two post-tests to an experimental group and a comparison group between December 2003 and January 2005. The experimental group of 55 juveniles received Nightwatch visits according to their court orders issued by the judge. The comparison group of 24 juveniles did not receive Nightwatch visits, and there are several reasons why this occurred, including residing outside the city, participating in the Victim/Offender Mediation (VOM) program, and being assigned to the program after the Time 2 survey was administered. Juveniles were given a pretest prior to their assignment to Nightwatch in order to establish a basis for their perceptions of certainty of punishment, as well as to measure their out-of-home activities. Informed consent was obtained from 132 study eligible juveniles. The pretests (Time 1) were administered to 118 juveniles (14 juveniles declined to participate in the study after giving informed consent) as soon as possible after informed consent was obtained, with all pretests completed within four days of obtaining it. With the exception of five juveniles who were interviewed at the VOM office, all juveniles were given the pretest while in the detention center. Two post-tests (Time 2 and Time 3) were administered, with a target interval of roughly two months, to measure any changes in perceptions or opportunities over time. At Time 2, 78 juveniles completed surveys. At Time 3, 37 juveniles completed surveys. Post-testing for juveniles under official court supervision occurred at variable points, and took advantage of times when the juvenile was required to come to the court on official business. This two-month post-test target coincides with the court's policy that every juvenile on official court supervision have a review hearing every 60 days. Post-testing for the VOM members of the comparison group was slightly different, since juveniles participating in VOM are not required to attend status conferences, and there is no adjudication. Instead, VOM staff agreed to arrange extra office visits as needed to complete post-tests.

The participant population was a purposive sample of juvenile offenders recently referred to the court for official delinquency with no prior participation in the Nightwatch program. Court records were examined daily during the study period, and juveniles admitted to the detention center were screened for inclusion in the study. Time 1 surveys were administered to 118 juveniles, which was roughly a 10 percent sampling of juvenile court referrals. Juveniles included in this study fell into one of three groups: those on official court supervision that received Nightwatch visits, those on official court supervision that did not receive Nightwatch visits, and those who participated in Victim/Offender Mediation (VOM). Juveniles in the first group constituted the experimental group (55 individuals), while those in the remaining two groups constituted the comparison group (24 individuals). The only selection criterion for inclusion in the study was that subjects had no prior Nightwatch participation. Other variables including age, sex, and offense type did not play a role in determining sample selection. Juveniles participating in VOM were selected as the comparison group for several reasons. First, juveniles who were eligible for VOM must have had limited previous contact with the court and no prior adjudications that assumed no prior Nightwatch participation. Second, juveniles who participated in VOM were not assigned to Nightwatch when the study began. Thus, the two groups were similar in their prior court contacts, but one group received Nightwatch contacts, while the other did not. This study should not be generalized directly to other sites given the small sample size, high rates of attrition, and the fact that it was limited to only one study site.

All juvenile offenders in St. Louis, Missouri, from December 2003 and January 2005.


Data for this collection were collected from investigator administered questionnaire and official court records.

administrative records data, survey data, experimental data

These data contain demographic variables on the respondent including age, gender, race, neighborhood in which the respondent lives, and with whom. Further information on the respondent includes whether the respondent is in the experimental or comparison group, prior participation in VOM or other programs, current charge the respondent is facing, prior referrals and charges, and the number of days the respondent has been in detention. Respondents were asked about: levels of parental supervision (do you tell your parents where you are, who you are with, etc.), behaviors (how many nights per week do you spend watching TV, doing homework, joyriding, hanging out, etc.), moral views (how wrong is it to skip school, lie to your parents, break curfew, cause property damage, etc.),severity of punishments (how bad would it be to have to write a book report, pick up trash, or receive detention), and the reactions of others (parents, friends, teachers, and employers) to the respondent's behavior. Respondents were also asked how likely they were to break the law, how guilty they would feel if they were not caught, and the likelihood of being caught. To develop an impulse index, respondents were asked to rate their behavior and agree or disagree with the following: I act on impulse, I act on the spur of the moment, I consider consequences, I do not act hastily, I do things I regret later, and I act first, think later. Respondents were also asked to self-report any incidences of delinquency (skipping school, breaking curfew, vandalism, etc.) and victimization (assault, robbery, etc.). Finally, there are variables related to the Nightwatch program including the number of Nightwatch visits, if the juvenile was home during the visit, the number of sanctions and rewards received, the type of sanction and if it was completed on time, and the number of doublebacks (extra visits for juveniles suspected of leaving the house after the initial check).

In Time 1, 344 juveniles were eligible and 118 participated, for a response rate of 34 percent. At Time 2 there was an attrition rate of 34 percent (11 juveniles declined to complete a survey or had no contact, and 29 juveniles dropped out of the study due to a decision of the court), leaving 78 participants. At Time 3, the attrition rate was 53 percent (16 juveniles declined to complete a survey or had no contact, and 25 juveniles dropped out of the study due to a decision of the court).

Several Likert-type scales were used.


2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Urban, Lynn S. Deterrent Effect of Curfew Enforcement: Operation Nightwatch in St. Louis, 2003-2005. ICPSR04302-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005-11-14.

2005-11-14 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.