Some young Baltimoreans on the street after 9 p.m. could soon find themselves being picked up by police.
The Baltimore City Council approved a curfew on Monday that would require all children younger than the age of 14 to be inside by 9 p.m. For teens ages 14 to 16, that time is 10 p.m. on school nights; 11 p.m. any other night. Additionally, the fine parents of children found to be out past curfew face would be increased from a possible maximum of $300 to $500, avoidable by attending family counselling sessions.
“It’s just a situation where I think the children’s safety is at risk,” said Councilwoman Rochelle Spector, who in September, when the issue was first raised, expressed doubts about the effectiveness of a tighter curfew but voted in favor of the changed curfew earlier this week. “These kids are falling through the cracks and this is a way of hopefully getting them the support system that they need. So for me it’s a no-brainer.”
Kids and teens picked up by police would be transported to the city’s curfew center on East North Avenue where they could receive a boxed meal while they wait to be reunited with a parent or guardian.
While proponents of the bill have said that it is a good way to help keep Baltimore youths safe, the ACLU launched a campaign in opposition to the bill, saying the law would worsen racial disparities. It compared the effect of the curfew to house arrest and calling for citizens to sign a petition against the law on the organization’s Twitter page.
At the Park Heights Jewish Community Center, vice president Phil Miller and other officials are monitoring the progress of the bill.
“We’re a neighborhood JCC,” said Miller, adding that it is not unusual to see a seventh- or eighth-grader at the center near the 9 o’clock hour. Exemptions would be made for children and teens traveling with a parent, returning from a job or coming to or from a religious, recreational or school activity, but the JCC is considering what kinds of changes the new curfew could have on its programming, some of which includes night activities for teens.
Under the current curfew, all children 16 or younger must be indoors by 11 p.m. on school nights and midnight on other nights. The proposed curfew requires one more vote before it is sent to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for approval.