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ACLU Questions City’s New Youth Curfew Law

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Ritchie Rochelle 175x131 L Rochelle Ritchie
Rochelle Ritchie joined WJZ Eyewitness News in June 2012. Prio...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Curfew controversy. The ACLU is raising concerns as the new curfew law in Baltimore City gets ready to go into effect.

Rochelle Ritchie took those concerns to the steps of City Hall, where officials say the ACLU is simply instilling fear in the residents.

It’s a heated discussion on both sides of the coin. City officials argue they are simply trying to help at-risk families, but the ACLU calls their method ineffective.

Baltimore City is just a few days away from seeing a new curfew law take effect. The new law requires teens under the age of 14 to be home by 9 p.m. Those 14 to 16 will have to be in by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.

“It’s to keep us safe because there is a lot of dangerous stuff going on out here,” said one city resident.

The city argues the new law is meant to connect at-risk youth and their families to Social Services. Not everyone is sold on the idea.

“At this point, there have really been no clear indications of how the law is enforced,” said Sona Kumar of the ACLU.

Kumar says the new law doesn’t clear up key issues, like how police will identify an underage teen. Also, what happens to youth the other five nights when the centers are closed and what will police do if a teen runs away from home.

“There is no secret in Baltimore City that there is a broken relationship between police and the community members. And one of the things I have heard from police is they will run from police because they have such fear,” said Kumar.

WJZ brought those concerns to City Hall to find out how officials plan to enforce this new law.

“The officers have been given explicit directions not to pursue and not to chase because that only escalates a potentially dangerous environment,” said Chief Public Affairs Officer Kevin Harris.

But some kids fear they could be profiled or targeted.

“I feel like they are targeting young black teenagers,” said one local Baltimore teen.

City officials say the officers will not profile teens, only ensure they are safe.

“They are able to discern if information they are getting is factual,” said attorney Angela Johnese.

Parents who have children caught out pass the curfew could face a $500 fine, which can be wavered if they sign up for parenting classes.

Baltimore’s new curfew law is the strictest in the country.

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