UPDATED: Aug. 9, 2014 9:53 a.m.
BALTIMORE (WNEW/AP) — One of the toughest curfew laws in the country went into effect Friday night in Baltimore.
The Baltimore City Council passed the law, which will require children and some teens to be indoors by 9 p.m., in June.
Champions of the bill argue that an earlier curfew would help prevent Baltimore’s youth from falling victim to, or committing, violent crimes, and help identify children suffering from neglect. Critics say the stringent bill could unfairly target African American children and teenagers.
Children younger than 14 will need to be accompanied by an adult between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. year-round. Teens between 14 and 16 must be accompanied by an adult from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weeknights during the school year, and from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekends and during the summer months. The pre-existing daytime curfew has also been amended to extend from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the school year. It was previously 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
After one curfew violation, a child’s parents or guardians may be issued a civil citation or be required to attend family counseling. If counseling sessions are not completed, or if a child has repeated violations, parents or guardians may be subject to a civil citation or a misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 and community service.
Youth found in violation of the curfew will be taken to Youth Connection Centers, which are operated through the partnership of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, the Baltimore Police Department, the Department of Social Services and the Baltimore City Public School System.
When a child under the age of 13 is taken to a center or when any child’s parent or guardian cannot be located, the Baltimore City Department of Social Services’ Child Protective Services division will be notified.
The law will be more stringent than many other cities, including those with higher violent crime rates.
St. Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee are two of the country’s most violent cities, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics for 2012. Those cities require youth under 17 to be indoors at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.
Councilman Brandon Scott, the bill’s sponsor, said the curfew “is not about rounding up thousands of teenagers.”
“If (children) are out there that late by themselves, that’s an indicator that they and their families need services,” Scott said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said keeping children indoors will help break a cycle of violent crime.
“We know that when children are on the streets late at night without adult supervision, they are more likely to become perpetrators or victims of violent crimes,” Rawlings-Blake said.
But Councilman Carl Stokes, who voted against the bill along with Councilman Warren Branch, said there should be a greater emphasis placed on developing programs than beefing up punitive measures.
Stokes called the curfew bill “a false effort to avoid the more obvious proactive methods we should be using to engage young people, encourage them and give them opportunities for growth.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland sent a letter of opposition to the City Council.
Sonia Kumar, an ACLU attorney, said the curfew law “essentially criminalizes people for just being outside,” and could unfairly target children in poor black neighborhoods with a heavy police presence.