Last week’s Baltimore City Council’s vote giving preliminary approval of council bill 13-0261 Minors – Curfew Reform, a beefed up version of a decades old piece of legislation, is outrageously unfair to our youth and their families. Every June for the past four years, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has released a press advisory announcing the opening of the Summer Curfew Center at Success Academy, 200 East North Ave. Each of these announcements state “The Summer Curfew Center is intended to get youth off the streets and hold parents accountable, but more importantly, to provide children and families access to important services.” There is absolutely no evidence that these important connections to services were made during the times the Summer Curfew Center was open over the past four summers.
So, going into the fifth summer under this administration, on behalf of the mayor, Councilman Brandon Scott introduced council bill 13-0261 reforming the current curfew law. This reformed law makes no reference to the disposition planned for our children once stopped by the police, yet there has been a lot of public discussion about taking these youth to a yet-to-be-established curfew center replacement. The open nature of this issue in the law has been discussed as a plus by supporters of the legislation. However, this issue needs to be clarified and at minimum should state the police will take the youth home. We should not forget the incident when the police dropped two teenagers off in Howard County after detaining them from a location in the city. Leaving this matter to the discretion of a police officer is unacceptable. If this administration is sincerely interested in helping our youth, there must be a clearly defined path linking our youth and families to the services some of them truly need.
Additionally, the law is silent on the record keeping and accountability for curfew violations. Will violations be issued to students? Will violations issued to youth be recorded in the criminal justice record system? The implications of police involvement in what is clearly a social wellness matter makes this law extremely suspect.
Some of the rhetoric surrounding this proposed law has simply been political pandering. For example, the mayor’s comment “If you want to have your kid run amok 24 hours a day, go live out on a farm somewhere.” This inflammatory statement implies that our youth are animals who should not live in an urban environment and warrants an apology from the mayor.
There is no room in this very real discussion for racial and political biases, because our youth absolutely need quality wrap around services and deserve more respect than this highbrow, elitist slap in the face. Reforming the curfew law, which has not been enforced, without also reforming or enhancing the ineffective delivery of supportive youth and family services first, is NOT logical.
Kim Trueheart is an active community volunteer and resident of Howard Park.