Baltimore poised to impose strict new youth curfew

Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:20am EDT
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By Ian Simpson

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - City officials in crime-ridden Baltimore on Tuesday defended plans for one of the toughest U.S. youth curfews against criticism from residents who were skeptical about police enforcement of the new law.

In a forum with residents, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the measure, set to take effect on Aug. 8, was aimed at getting children off the streets before they were put in danger.

"This is not about criminalizing young black children but to reach them before the only option for them is law enforcement," the mayor told the crowd of about 100 people.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he had sometimes come across children riding bicycles across the city at 3 a.m. When the parents were contacted, they had no idea where their children were, he said.

"They should not be out there, and you should be honest about that," Batts said.

The new curfew in Baltimore, the setting for such gritty television police dramas as "The Wire", will make it a violation for a youth under 14 to be outside their homes after 9 p.m. year-round. Those aged 14 to 16 would be banned from being outside on school nights after 10 p.m. and on other nights after 11 p.m.

Police could take violators to a curfew center, where they and the parents will have access to social services. Parents would have to take city-approved counseling classes and could face a $500 fine for repeat violations, up from the previous $300.

Children younger than 17 can now stay out until 11 on weeknights and until midnight on weekends.   Continued...

Brandon Wallace, 27, protests by wearing handcuffs before a community meeting with city officials about new youth curfew legislation going into effect on August 8 at the University of Baltimore Law Center in Baltimore Tuesday July 29, 2014. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan