Spike in Youth Fatalities Prompts Baltimore Curfew

Sunday, 22 Jun 2014 09:39 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Baltimore is beefing up its youth curfew policy making it one of the toughest in the country,  The New York Times reported.

The new rules signed by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake require youngsters 14 to 16 to be off the streets by 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends and during the summer. Children under 14 need to be in by 9 every night, the Times reported. Parents could, hypothetically, face penalties of up to $500.

Nine youngsters under 18 have been killed in 2014 — more than double last year's total for the same period, according to the Times. Violent crime in the  city is more than twice the national average.

"Let me be clear: This is not a criminal enforcement act by the police. Children will not be entered into the criminal justice system for merely violating curfew. This is about taking them out of harm's way," the mayor said, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Police will be expected to use their good judgment. "This isn't a contest to see how many young people can be rounded up and taken to the curfew center," mayoral spokesman Kevin Harris told the Times.

Young people are complaining about the new rules. Isaiah Jackson, 15, says he waits until 10 p.m. to play basketball because that is when the weather has cooled off. "When I go outside, I really don't do anything but play basketball and football. It's stupid for me to get in trouble for tossing a football at 10 o'clock at night," the Times reported.

Most curfews are seen as temporary measures and are lifted after crime rates recede. "They tend to have bursts of enforcement, and then they tend to give up," said Patrick Kline, who researched curfews at the University of California, the Times reported.

Civil rights groups have expressed concern that teenagers are not mistreated by police. The local American Civil Liberties Union is considering challenging the policy in court. Baltimore's population is over 60 percent  African American.

Taqi Juba, 17, who recently graduated vocational high school and works as a dishwasher late into the night, said he would understand if he were stopped by police. "They're just doing their job, trying to keep the streets safe. I actually appreciate that."

In addition to the nighttime curfew, the new rules restrict unsupervised children under 16 from being in malls, stores, or parks during regular school hours. The law will take effect in mid-August, the Sun reported.

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