A tough curfew that would force children and teens off Baltimore’sas early as 9 p.m. was approved this month by the city council despite concerns it will create more problems than it will solve. The legislation requires another vote before final passage, scheduled for June.
The bill’s sponsor, Councilman Brandon Scott, says the legislation is intended to keep small children from wandering the street, becoming victims of crime or suffering from neglect, according to The Baltimore Sun.
"We all know that when children are on the streets late at night without proper supervision, they are more likely to either become the perpetrators or the victims of violent crime," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "I believe this legislation will be another much-needed tool to help reduce the number of juveniles on the streets at night, while furthering a commitment my administration has made to provide more services for young people we know are vulnerable."
Baltimore experiences one of the highest crime rates in the country. Last year, it saw a 7.3 percent rise in homicides, to 235, the New York Daily News reports.
The legislation, primarily approved 11-2, will require children under the age of 14 to be indoors by 9 p.m. year-round. 14-to 16-year olds are permitted to stay out until 10 p.m. on a school night, and 11 p.m. on weekends, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Currently, anyone younger than 17 can stay out until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. Parents can be fined up to $300 if children are caught outside after curfew.
The new legislation will up that fine to $500, which could be waived if parents and children attend counseling sessions provided by the city, according to The Baltimore Sun.
But opponents of the legislation say the curfew is the same as putting young teens under house arrest, and will place unnecessary strain on, according to CBS Baltimore.
“If adopted, it would make Baltimore’s daytime and evening curfews one of the most extreme curfews in the country,” Sonia Kumar, of the Maryland ACLU, told the TV station.
She added enforcement would be troubling. “I can’t look at you and say, `You’re over 14; you’re under 14; you’re 15.’ And moreover, I can’t look at you and know whether you are on your way home from school,” she told the station.
But Police Commissioner Antony Batts told the station he believes the curfew would be enforceable, and a positive step to help keep young people safe.
“I think it’s fairly easy to see the difference in a 14-year-old, 13-year-old, 12-year-old,” he told the station. “And if this keeps them safe, I think it’s a positive.”
Indianapolis; Oakland, Calif.; and Austin, Texas are also considering curfews, according to the New York Daily News. Several other cities have already imposed them, including Miami, Philadelphia and Houston.
Rawlings-Blake has said that if the legislation passes in June, she will sign it into law, according to The Baltimore Sun.