*The City of Baltimore has taken a brazen step in its efforts to curb violence by youth in the city. On Monday, the council voted in favor of a highly debated “Curfew” law that demands young people are off the street as early as 9p.m.
A previous law was more lenient in allowing youth under the age of 17 years be out until 11p.m. on weekdays and by midnight on the weekend. But now, the new legislation – which passed by a vote of 13-2, specifies times by age group and pushes the previous time up by two hours in some cases.
With the new legislation, children under the age of 14 must be off the streets by 9 p.m., while teens ages 14-16 must be inside by 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on non-school nights.
As expected, this is a law that did not sit well with everyone. The youth clearly hate it, but the pros and cons are put forth in a way that shows it as a step towards the goal rather than the solution to the problem.
Colleen Davidson, a youth organizer of a group called Fist, is opposed to the new legislation, and says, “There’s already a huge amount of police brutality, with adults being targeted, but now police are going to have the green light to do the exact same thing to young people.”
Councilman Brandon Scott takes a different perspective, saying, “If you’ve seen a 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-, 12-year-old out with no coat in the wintertime at 9 or 10 p.m., then you would have a different viewpoint because this isn’t the perfect solution, this isn’t the silver bullet, but this is a tool that will help us get to where we need to be.”
And though violation of this new law holds some stiff fines for both the child and the parent, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake does not want people to view it as a criminal punishment.
The fine for violators is that they can be picked up by police and taken to a youth connection center. Once there, officials said a representative would try to get in touch with the kids’ parents, who would be fined a minimum of $30 and a maximum of $500, depending on the circumstances.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake reiterates, “This is not a criminal enforcement act by the police. This is about taking them out of harm’s way before a situation materializes where their being on the street becomes a law enforcement concern.
The hope is to eventually have nine curfew centers, one for each police district, that would be open 24 hours a day.
The new law is considered one of the strictest curfews in the country.