Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott has imposed a curfew for Baltimore city youth, which goes into effect on Memorial Day. (Courtesy Photo)

By Ron Taylor,
Special to the AFRO

Mayor Brandon Scott has a focus on street violence and Baltimore youth which inspired him to revive a curfew beginning this spring aimed at keeping city minors off the streets after dark.

“We are going back to the old days,” said Scott on April 10. 

The mayor unveiled a directive, effective Memorial Day,  imposing a 9 p.m. curfew for children 14-years-old and younger and 10 p.m. for children under the age of 17. “We will be enforcing a curfew as we move into the latter spring and summer months.”

In a city hall announcement in which he was flanked by BPD Chief Michael Harrison and State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, Scott spelled out a return to a curfew for minors in the wake of a shooting Easter Sunday evening linked to a brawl at an Inner Harbor gathering. Two boys, one 14-year-old and one 16-year-old, sustained gunshot wounds.

Despite reductions in street crime, he said, “We have a lot of work to do… especially when we are seeing this trend of young people who are the ones who are losing their lives or becoming the victims of gun violence over miniscule basic human conflict. These simple, senseless acts of violence in our city have to stop.”

Imposing a curfew is already triggering resistance from parents and legal advocates who insist that the move is unconstitutional. It also caused arguments from 2014 by then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake to resurface. 

“What we have learned since the ‘old days’ is that curfews are unconstitutional, racially biased policing strategies that drive unnecessary and harmful contact between police and Black and Brown children,” said Maryland Public Defender Natasha M. Dartigue, in an April 11 statement.

“The Maryland Office of the Public Defender agrees that the curfew decision will not address the underlying causes of violent crime or prevent violence, which rarely occurs during curfew hours,” said Melissa Rothstein, chief of external affairs for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

BPD Commissioner Michael Harrison said that the officers deployed last weekend responded to seven shooting incidents with four fatalities and five non-fatal shooting victims. 

“We are once again talking about juveniles being potential suspects and potential victims of violent crime,” said Harrison.

In the 400 block of Pratt Street, while escorting a suspect from one of the fights they broke up, “multiple shots were fired …with officers less than 25 feet away.”  

“The chaos that occurred downtown last night is totally unacceptable,” said Bates.

The curfew begins the Friday before Memorial Day and will continue through the  last Sunday in August, the city officials said. 

“It’s not just about making sure we are getting them off the street, but making sure that we are supporting them and figuring out what’s going on with them and their families,” Scott said. “It is not normal for a person to be that far away from their home and no one knows where they are or cares for them.”

Violators will be detained at one of two youth correction centers in the city and their parents will face fines of up to $500.

A previous version of this story listed Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates as “state attorney.” The AFRO regrets this error.