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Friday, August 8, 2014

Baltimore Mayor Defends Teen Curfew Law

Starting tonight, unsupervised children under 14 in Baltimore will be required to be inside by 9 p.m. - even in the summertime. (Gavinsblog/Flickr).

Starting tonight, unsupervised children under 14 in Baltimore will be required to be inside by 9 p.m. – even in the summertime. (Gavinsblog/Flickr).

One of the strictest youth curfews in the nation takes effect tonight in Baltimore. Unsupervised children under 14 must be off the streets by 9 p.m. year round, including summertime.

Children aged 14 to 16 will only be able to stay out until 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends. Violators and their parents or guardians could be required to attend counseling sessions or face a fine of up to $500.

Critics are concerned that African-American children will be targeted, but Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told Here & Now’s Robin Young that the city is trying to protect children, not criminalize them.

“I understand their concerns and we will continue to monitor it, but they’re unfounded,” she said. “I really don’t have time for fear mongering — I’m focused on protecting kids.”

Interview Highlights

On why these changes to Baltimore’s curfew shouldn’t be controversial

“We’ve had a curfew in Baltimore for more than 20 years. We’ve enforced it with a curfew center since 2008. I’m a little perplexed sometimes with the amount of controversy since it’s been something that’s been in place. We took away the penalty of jail — the previous curfew violators, the parents were at risk of jail. There was a penalty of jail. We took that out, and in its place put the fine. The city council put in place a measure that the fine could be waived if the parents participated in resource training or parenting classes. So, we reduced the penalty, we changed the curfew time so that a 6-year-old and a 16-year-old wouldn’t have the same curfew, and it seemed to be pretty common sense not controversial.”

On why the curfew is important

“The vast majority of people when we go out to the meetings are very supportive. People understand that we need to keep an eye on our kids and we have to watch out for them. We want to know if there are kids that are out there unsupervised, don’t know where their parents are, don’t have anyone that’s responsible for them. We want to know and we want to connect them with a responsible adult so they can be protected.”

“When you have a child that’s out there unsupervised, late at night, there’s a problem. I want to get to the bottom of it and fix it so these kids are able to reach their fullest potential and we can have healthy families in Baltimore. I am fully committed to making sure that this is not a program that turns into a de facto stop-and-frisk, and I’m curious how it could be seen as demonizing children when the whole focus is on protecting our young people and making sure that they have an opportunity to grow. The data shows that this works — there’s nothing to support any of the red flags that have been thrown up.”

Guest


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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