The Baltimore City Council, on May 12, preliminarily approved a tough new curfew for children, designed to have them off the streets and inside by 9 p.m. Opponents of the new curfew say it is unconstitutional and will create conflict between youth and police.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Brandon Scott, the curfew is intended to keep young children from wandering the streets at night and becoming victims of crime and neglect.
The legislation states that kids under 14 are to be indoors by 9 p.m. year-round. Kids ages 14 through 16 could stay out until 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on other nights. The bill also establishes a daytime curfew of 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the exception of children traveling to or from school. Parents can be fined up to $500 or made to attend counseling sessions if their children are not inside by the designated curfew hours.
The bill has faced much opposition from unions and citizens alike. The American Civil Liberties Union and the head of the city’s police union have criticized the bill. City Councilmen Carl Stokes and Warren Branch voted against it.
A Baltimore City resident, Kirby Griffin, thinks the bill will create more police harassment on Baltimore youth. “This curfew is absolutely another justification to bother young Blacks. This will only cause chaos,” Griffin said. “The curfew will by no means decrease crime. Going in the house early doesn’t decrease crime, fixing social conditions, and providing economic opportunities does. A criminal at home before 7 p.m. is still just that – a criminal.”
While there is opposition to the curfew, there is also support. A local educator, Cat Sal, thinks the curfew is needed. “I think the curfew will decrease crime among youth/delinquency and put more responsibility on the parents,” said Sal. “I think the parents need to be penalized, but on the other hand, I think city youth need outlets (community centers, recreational centers, etc.) to curb idleness.”
The success of the legislation will depend on how well the city police enforce it, according to City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “I’m hoping the enforcement piece will kick in and we’ll be able to save a lot of our young people,” Young said.
The bill, approved in an 11-2 initial ballot, requires another vote before it can go to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has indicated she will sign the bill into law. “We all know that when children are on the streets late at night without proper supervision, they are more likely to either become the perpetrators or the victims of violent crime,” Rawlings-Blake said in statement. “I believe this legislation will be another much needed tool to help reduce the number of juveniles on the streets at night, while furthering a commitment my administration has made to provide more services for young people we know are vulnerable.”
The bill will become law 30 days after being signed by the mayor.