Baltimore City Council gives preliminary approval to curfew bill

BALTIMORE - Baltimore City Council members Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would bring children in sooner, establishing an earlier curfew.

Under current law, kids under 17 years old can be out as late as 11 p.m. on weekdays. The new measure would establish a 9 p.m. curfew for children under 14 years old. Children 14 to 16 years old would be allowed to be until 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on the weekends.

READ MORE | Bill would toughen Baltimore teen curfew

“If we can just impact the ones that we capture, I don’t care if it’s 500 or 1,000, those children that we capture and get them off the streets, see if they need resources for their families, feed them when they need to be fed,” Councilman Brandon Scott, who sponsored the bill, said.

Scott said he used to help run the nighttime curfew center.

“The stories that the young kids tell you will break your heart,” Scott said. “Just being able to connect them with the services they need is very important.”

The new bill would also increase the penalties for parents who could be fined up to $500 if their child is caught out after curfew.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is in support of the bill that she believes will encourage parents to take a more proactive step in their children’s lives.

“I’ve seen 5 year olds, 6 year olds, 7 year olds come into the curfew center over the summer that were out without any adult supervision whatsoever. … This is about getting those kids that would otherwise fall through the cracks,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland believes the measure however is far-reaching and says it could create more problems than it solves.  

"Putting kids under virtual house-arrest, without regard for their individual situations, creates far more problems than it solves, and encourages police to stop young people for no reason at all and demand ID, increasing the risk that they will be arrested, subjected to force, and handcuffed," said Sonia Kumar, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland in a release.  "Courts around the country have struck down as unconstitutional curfews that are far less extreme than the proposal being considered here."

The ACLU of Maryland sent a letter to the City Council Monday expressing its concerns, which are focused on the potential for discriminatory practices.

“There is no evidence that locking people inside keeps them from being victimized or delinquent,” the release states. “The police can take action when they believe a young person is in danger or causing harm.”

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