Baltimore, where urban crime reigns supreme, has had a curfew in place for many years, but it has not been strictly enforced. Now city officials have rolled up their sleeves to institute one of the strictest curfews this nation has ever seen in an attempt to get the city’s youth off the streets and to sweep its urban areas of its rampant crime infestation. Not everyone, however, is in favor of the curfew. Some see it as a cloaked violation of minority rights very similar to the much-criticized stop-and-frisk policies in New York, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The curfew, which is set to begin on August 8th, was at the center of a second town hall forum orchestrated by the city’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, this week. In front of a group of about 100 or so attendees, the mayor addressed any questions and concerns about the imposing curfew, saying, “This is not about criminalizing young Black children but to reach them before the only option for them is law enforcement,” stated the Mayor. Still, many in attendance argued that the curfew will only increase the likelihood of negative interactions between the law and young people.
The new curfew, which replaces one that’s been on the books for about 20 years, requires all children under the age of 14 be accompanied by an adult between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. year-round. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 must also have an adult present with them at all times between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights during the school calendar and between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekends and during the summer season as well. During the day, the curfew will extend from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children and teens out too late will be taken by police to a curfew center, where a parent or guardian will be contacted and workers will decide whether it is safe for the kids to go home. The youths will not face criminal charges nor will they be handcuffed when transported to the centers.
What is the punishment for curfew law breakers in a city that is predominantly Black and known as having one of the most-violent crime rates in the nation?
“After one curfew violation, the young person’s parents or guardians may be issued a civil citation or be required to attend family counseling with the child. If counseling sessions are not completed or if a child has repeated violations of the curfew, the parents or guardians may be subject to a civil citation or a misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 and community service,” according to a release from the city.
Many residents attending the forum stated their fears about aggressive police officers, and one man at the forum told the mayor: “Youth are a ticking time bomb.” He said parents would put their low-wage jobs at risk if they had to leave to pick up their children at a curfew center. Rawlings-Blake responded to the man by pointing out, “Once you decide to be a parent, you are a parent 24 hours a day, and when you have difficulties, you cannot cast off your responsibility.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Fraternal Order of Police are not very optimistic about the imposing curfew law either; both organizations have argued how it will likely not be a solution for the growing crime rate in the city. Organization members also made mention of the fact that Baltimore police will be stretched beyond their already heavy workloads and have not been given the proper guidelines on how to best execute it.
In the meantime, the ACLU will reportedly keep the new law on its radar to determine whether it further strains relations between police and youth.