Residents grill officials on new curfew policy

Written by on August 6, 2014 in Neighborhood News - No comments

Many residents had questions at the mayor’s curfew “Town Hall” on July 29 at the University of Baltimore Law School.

More the 150 residents attended the forum, which included speakers Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Councilman Brandon Scott, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, and Angela Johnese, director of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice.

A small crowd of youths and young adults protested the curfew in front of the law school.

Inside, attendees from all over the city expressed mixed feelings about the revised curfew and increased enforcement, which take effect Aug. 8.

Many expressed doubts over Baltimore’s need for, and the effectiveness of, such a curfew—as well as fears that low-income youth, and African-American youth specifically, would be disproportionally impacted.

Under the city’s amended curfew ordinance, children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., year-round, unless an exception applies.

Youth ages 14 to 16 must be accompanied by an adult from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weeknights during the school year, and from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekends and during the summer months, unless an exception applies.

One gentleman at the town hall meeting said he came from a Baltimore community where two of the three local rec centers were closed.

“The kids,” he said, “have nothing to do.”

The mayor replied that an open rec center would not stop a child “from falling through the cracks at one in the morning.”

“Why would a rec center be open while kids should be asleep?” she asked him.

“Someone has to say it’s unacceptable for kids to be out that late. It’s common sense.”

Youth found in violation of the curfew will be transported to a youth connection center. There are currently two: one at the Lillian Jones Rec Center at 1310 N. Stricker St.; the other at the Collington Square Rec Center, at 1409 N. Patterson Park Ave., according to the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice.

A handout provided by the mayor’s office stated when a child under the age of 13 is taken to a youth connection center for violating the curfew, the Baltimore City Department of Social Services’ Child Protective Services Division will also be notified.

Additionally, any youth found in violation of the curfew for whom a parent or guardian cannot be located will be referred to the agency.

“The city rarely collects fines, historically.”

One town hall attendee expressed concern that children whose parents work two or more jobs—and might not be home at night—might be especially impacted by the curfew.

“These youths come from low-income parents who are busting their butts,” he said.

The mayor responded: “Once you become a parent, you are a parent 24 hours a day.”

Batts added: “Working is no excuse for letting your kids out on the street.”

Presumably speaking about youth crime and groups of youths near the Inner Harbor tourist district, another attendee interjected: “Is the curfew about the harbor?”

In response to her comment, a man shouted out from the rear of the auditorium.

“They’re damn well not locking up kids in Guilford!” he said, referring to the affluent, low-crime community in north Baltimore City.

Johnese, from the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, said that curfew violations had taken place throughout the city.

According to a statement from the mayor’s office, after one curfew violation, a 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 charge, which carries a fine of up to $500 and community service.

One question that did get answered at the town hall was the cost of fines.

Brandon Scott said that fines start at $30 and the maximum fine is $500.

He noted, to many attendees relief, that only three maximum fines were levied against repeated curfew violators last summer.

What’s more, he said, the fines are not always collected.

“The city rarely collects fines, historically,” Scott said.

Information about the curfew, including exceptions, can be obtained by calling the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice at 410-396-9521.

by Danielle Sweeney

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