BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The curfew ordinance for Baltimore City is in effect for the first time Friday night. Children found in violation of the curfew will be escorted to one of two youth connection centers.

Rick Ritter has the details.

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Kids 16 years of age and under who are out passed 9 p.m could get picked up by police. City leaders say it’s simple–the new curfew law is about protecting the youth and keeping them safe.

But not everyone is sold on the idea.

One of the strictest curfews across the country is now reality in Baltimore City. After 20 years, kids are no longer allowed to roam the streets until midnight.

“I think it should’ve been done long before now,” said city resident and mother Shantel Thigpen.

The new law requires teens under 14-years-old to be home by 9 p.m. Fourteen to 16-year-olds must be in by 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends. No matter what age, children are no stranger to the dangers along city streets after-hours.

“They be shooting and all that,” said Bobby Smith of West Baltimore.

Teens caught out after curfew will be taken to one of two youth centers open two days a week, like the Lillian Jones Recreation Center, where they can engage in activities.

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The other five days, teens are taken to the Department of Social Services. That’s something Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says will connect at-risk youth and their families to the help they need.

“Until they are adults, we’re going to stand in that gap and make sure they’re protected,” the mayor said.

If an officer sees a child out past curfew, they could take the child home. If that home-life is unsafe, the officer would take the child to one of the two curfew centers.

There’s no denying the controversy. Some say the new law doesn’t clear up key issues like how police will identify an underage teen.

“One of the things I heard from youths is that they’ll run at the sight of police whether or not they’ve done anything wrong because they have such fear,” said Sona Kumar of the ACLU.

Parents like Shantel Thipgen say the new law is worth a shot at the least.

“Why not try something new? What has been going on has not been working,” said Thigpen.

Children will not face criminal charges, but their parents could be fined up to $500. That fine could be waived if they sign up for parenting counseling.

The city wants to eventually open nine centers that will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Rick Ritter