Baltimore’s expanded curfew law, which is being described by some as one of the strictest in the nation officially went into effect last weekend on August 8 and the new measure is already dramatically influencing the decisions of some parents.
“My kids…worked summer jobs saved their money, did chores around the house in order to go. But, I wasn’t comfortable with them going without me being here,” said Kim Ellis, a married mother of two boys ages 15 and 17 who had been waiting all year to attend the Aug. 8-10 Otakon convention, which attracts anime enthusiasts from around the world.
Ellis, who is vice president of the Matthew Henson Community Association in West Baltimore planned to attend a family reunion in New York with her husband last weekend. But, they decided to stay home instead so their sons could attend Otakon, without the parents being burdened with the specter of their boys running afoul of the new law and them being three hours away.
“I don’t want them standing on a corner trying to get a cab. I don’t want them walking to where they think they can find one and the police stopping them because they are…Black kids downtown at the Inner Harbor,” Ellis explained.
The expanded law signed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake just before the summer began, calls for youths 14 to 16 to be off the streets by 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends and in the summer. Children under 14 must be in by 9 every night.
News of Baltimore’s expanded curfew law has attracted national media attention, including MSNBC’s, “Melissa Harris Perry,” show, which airs weekend mornings. On Aug. 3 the curfew was discussed during a segment titled, “Ways young people can become criminalized.”
“The city of Baltimore has introduced a new, harsher curfew…On the one hand the mayor of Baltimore — who is an African-American woman herself — is saying this is to protect our children from the crime that is in the streets,” Harris-Perry explained. “On the other hand, there is the high likelihood that you end up criminalizing kids for being out late, actually turning (into) criminal activity from a kind of normal kid practice,” she concluded.
The author of the law says the legislation is not about criminalizing children or parents.
“In the past actually, it was the exact opposite of what some of the opponents (of the law) have been saying. In the past it was a criminal thing, parents could go to jail for their kids being out on curfew, which doesn’t make sense,” said Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott, who represents the city’s Second District.
“If I lock a parent up because their kid was out at 12 o’clock at night well, where do you think the kid will be on the next day at 12 o’clock at night? They’re going to be out on the street for sure, so we eliminated the criminal penalty,” Scott added.
Scott says the criminal penalty has been eliminated, but parents or guardians face possible fines ranging from $50 to $500 or parental training and counseling if their children violate the curfew.
“We’re trying to push those families to training courses, other resources, other services that can help them (youth) and the family be whole. Because ultimately that’s what this is really about, this is about connecting the most vulnerable youth and their families to the services that they need,” Scott said.
A longtime city advocate for youth believes the expanded law isn’t, “well thought out enough.”
“I think because young people are young people they’re going to do just the opposite of what you say,” said Cameron Miles, director and founder of, Mentoring Male Teens in the Hood. “So, if you are saying you are imposing a curfew, `I’m not going in the damn house, it’s hot; we don’t have fans we don’t have air conditioning I’m going to just hang out and if they catch me I’m going to run,” Miles added.
“I think it opens a can of worms of possible tragedy and that’s what I don’t want to see.”