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“It’s on the entire village”; Baltimore City summer curfew de-emphasizes police involvement.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor (photo credit: Aaron Henkin / WYPR)
Baltimore's Inner Harbor (photo credit: Aaron Henkin / WYPR)

On Friday, the highly anticipated Baltimore City summer curfew goes into effect for children 16 and younger. Police are not meant to play a leading role in that enforcement, say officials as they gave more details for the plan on Wednesday afternoon.

The curfew is effective on weekends and holidays through Labor Day. 15 and 16-year-olds may not be outside without a parent or guardian after 11 p.m. while 14-year-olds and younger cannot be out after 9 p.m.

Trauma-informed city staff will monitor popular gathering spots in Inner Harbor, Fells Point, and Federal Hill. Teens can go home or take a ride in a rebranded school van to one of two Youth Connection centers, where they can play games and be connected with services while they wait for a parent. The department of social services will be called if parents cannot be reached.

Civilian engagement staff, and not the police, will be transporting teens to the curfew centers.

“Past curfew attempts have over emphasized the role of law enforcement in a way that alienated our young people and frame curfew engagement as punishment,” said Shantay Jackson with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), instead, she said it should be an opportunity to connect with children.

“This is not going to be police going around criminalizing Black children,” said Jackson.

The first violation is a written warning to parents. The second violation could be a $50 fine or family counseling. Upon the third curfew violation, parents can be fined $500 or asked to do community service.

Police interaction is meant to be minimal. A leaked internal memo went out to some news agencies on Tuesday night that explained the policy for dispersing crowds. If police encounter a group of ten children or more out after curfew they are required to turn on their body cameras, call for back-up and contact workers from the connection centers to talk with the kids. They must also make three announcements telling the children to disperse.

Children cannot be arrested for violating curfew or forced into a youth center. Curfew violation is a ‘status offense’ explained Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and police are looking to minimize all youth interactions.

“Unless we have reasonable suspicion to believe that they are carrying a firearm for a status offense alone, absent that reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, we're not doing a pat down and so we're following the Constitution,” said Harrison.

Kids will be wanded down for weapons before they enter the center.

Officials say the curfew isn’t meant to solve the city’s problem with youth gun violence, but they do note that youth homicide and shootings are up 100% from this time last year.

“I want to acknowledge that a curfew policy will not stop crime, but it is a piece to the larger puzzle,” said Mayor Brandon Scott.

Baltimore’s curfew, although recently unenforced, has been controversial and often noted to be one of the strictest in the country. Critics have expressed worry since the mayor’s announcement last month that it could lead to increased police interaction and thus incarceration of young people. Others have pointed out that curfews were used during the Jim Crow era to restrict the movements of Black Americans.

In addition to the youth curfew, the mayor’s office will also be organizing activities for youth like midnight basketball, roller skating, and other events as part of its B’More This Summer program.

This year’s Youth Connection Centers will be at:

CC Jackson Recreation Center, 4910 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215

Rita R. Church Community Center, 2101 St Lo Dr, Baltimore, MD 21213

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
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