BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Cracking down on curfews. Baltimore City may soon impose a tough new curfew for teens. City leaders say they want to keep kids off the streets but opponents say the new restrictions may be unconstitutional.
Meghan McCorkell has more on the controversy.
In a preliminary vote, the city council approved a bill that could make Baltimore’s curfew laws among some of the strictest in the country.
Last February, dozens of teens tear through the 7-Eleven in upper Fells Point. Now city leaders are trying to stop behavior like this.
“We have to look for ways to support kids in need, vulnerable children. One way we identify those kids are the ones that are out unsupervised,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
The city council is considering expanding the curfew so children under the age of 14 would need to be home by 9 p.m. year round. Fourteen and 16-year-olds would have a curfew of 10 p.m. on weeknights during the school year and 11 p.m. on weekends. There would also be a daytime curfew during school hours.
But opponents say the curfew expansion bill is equivalent to putting the kids on house arrest, which could create more problems than it solves.
“If adopted, it would make Baltimore’s daytime and evening curfews one of the most extreme curfews in the country,” said Sonia Kumar, ACLU Maryland.
Kumar sent a letter to the council saying enforcement of the curfew expansion encourages unnecessary police stops for young people.
“I can’t look at you and say, `You’re over 14; you’re under 14; you’re 15.’ And moreover, I can’t look at you and know whether you are on your way home from school,” she said.
But Police Commissioner Anthony Batts says he believes it’s enforceable.
“I think it’s fairly easy to see the difference in a 14-year-old, 13-year-old, 12-year-old,” he said. “And if this keeps them safe, I think it’s a positive.”
The curfew expansion will be up for a final vote in June.
The mayor plans to open year round connection centers, providing resources for those who violate curfew.
Under the proposal, if a child is caught violating curfew, the family can attend counseling to have that citation wiped off their record. More than one citation could result in a hefty fine.
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