Locked In

©iStockphoto.com/selensergen

©iStockphoto.com/selensergen

The proposed changes to the teen curfew in the city of Baltimore don’t have much support in the city’s District 5 office.

“I don’t see any advantage,” said Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle Spector, adding that she will learn more about the proposal when it reaches the hearing stage. “I’m not sure that it’s building a better mousetrap.”

If approved, the new curfew, proposed by City Councilman Brandon M. Scott earlier this month, will change the times at which young people must be off city streets to an age-based system. Children under the age of 14 would have to be indoors by 9 p.m. year-round. Teens between 14 and 16 would have to be in by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends and during summer. The maximum fine would also be increased to $500.

Curfews are not new to the city. Current law mandates that all people under the age of 17 may not be in any public place or establishment after midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. on weekdays. It is also unlawful for any parent or guardian to knowingly permit his or her child to violate this curfew. Those minors in violation of the curfew may be detained by police but not arrested, and no mark is made on their criminal record. Parents or guardians in violation of the subtitle may also receive a fine of up to $300, imprisonment for a maximum of 60 days or sentenced to community service.

The proposed system would allow minors and their families to avoid a civil citation by attending a family-strengthening program.

In her district, District 5, the Northwest portion of the city, Spector said juvenile behavior has been a problem, but she is wary of an across-the-board fix to a complicated problem. With organizations such as Northwest Citizen’s Patrol and Shomrim, along with the local police precinct, Spector said the situation in her district is better than that of many other regions of the city.

“When we identify an area or situation, it really gets focused attention and resources,” she said.

Exceptions would remain in place for minors accompanied by a parent or returning home from work or a school or religious function.

Baltimore has gained national attention over the years for its murder rate, which rests at the sixth highest in the U.S. among cities with populations of 100,000 people or more, according to FBI data. According to the city of Baltimore’s Comstat data, Baltimore police have made 32,718 arrests in 2013, and of those, 2,487 (7.6 percent) were juveniles. While this figure is almost identical to the rate in cities such as Washington, D.C., where 7.3 percent of 2012 arrests were juveniles, part of Scott’s motive behind his proposal is to help reduce truancy in city schools and improve student performance, he told Nathan Sterner on 88.1 FM’s “Midday with Dan Rodricks” last Tuesday.

Said Councilwoman Spector: “Police can’t be the answer to parents or those who are responsible for these children.”

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