Go home kids: Baltimore launches strict evening curfew for youth

Sat Aug 9, 2014 11:10am EDT
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By Edith Honan

BALTIMORE - As dusk crept over Collington Square Park, in east Baltimore, the children's chatter of questions began.

"What time is my curfew?" "What if I'm out with my brother and he's 18?" "If I hide, can I still stay out and play?"

A 23-year-old man with thin, cascading braids who goes by the name Dreads interrupted the chorus of voices: "It's 8:05! You all have 55 minutes left!"

A new youth curfew law, among the strictest in the nation, took effect in Baltimore on Friday night. It requires unaccompanied children under the age of 14 to be indoors by 9 p.m. and for 14, 15 and 16-year-olds to be indoors by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends and during the summer.

Children found out on the streets can be picked up by police and escorted to one of two recreational centers set up by the city until parents or guardians pick them up.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blakes says the rules will help keep kids out of harm's way in a city that has long struggled with high crime. But civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, say the rules are too vague and make negative interactions between police and children all but inevitable.

"I think there is a widely acknowledged lack of trust between members of the public and the police department in Baltimore. Discussion of this falls against that backdrop," said Sonia Kumar, an ACLU staff attorney.

She said she was also concerned about how police would react if they stop a child who is not carrying a photo identification, or if the child attempts to run away.   Continued...