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Boys Flagged as Curfew Violators, Not Girls

By Zuri Smith

Four Baltimore City College High School students sat on the brick wall outside their school talking about the city’s new curfew, debating why it is disproportionately enforced. Preliminary data from the city shows that African Americans are stopped more than whites and males are stopped more than females. During the first two months of the curfew, 126 black teens were stopped for curfew violations compared to 19 white teens.

Anastasia Jeffries, a 16-year-old junior says that “police officers see girls less as a threat because there is that idea that girls are weak.” Girls are more likely to follow the rules, she says, so police think they aren’t “going to cause as much trouble.”

Baltimore’s new curfew requires youth under 14 to be indoors by 9 P.M. and youth 14 to 17 to be inside by 11 P.M.

Students from City College High School complained about the curfew. “It doesn’t make any sense that they are saying kids can’t be out at certain times,” said Jeffries. “Some [teens] have jobs and take the bus.”

“I have watched a cop sit in front of a bus stop and wait for something to happen for him to get out of the car,” said Ranye McLendon, a 16-year-old City College senior, explaining   that she has typically seen police targeting young African American males. The police were waiting for the young man to make and error, she said.

Jeffries blamed it on stereotypes of young black men. “They fit the police’s definition of what an assailant looks like.”

The students also agreed that the curfew sweeps were not put in place to monitor young women, but geared toward young men.

Student Kevin Scott was fed up with the police and hopeless about reform efforts. “The police are the police,” he said.

All four students agreed the curfew was a bad idea.

Parents on the other hand, Dexter Nixon and Gail Ruhkamp were divided.

Dexter Nixon, father of a 13-year-old son, thought the curfew was a good idea. “There are a lot of kids, teenagers especially, who don’t need to be out on the street at a certain time of night. I don’t see a good reason that people are giving to justify why their 14 to 16 year old is on the street past 9 o’çlock.”

“The assumption is more males are committing crimes than females,” he said, though he thinks this probably depends on the individual officer.

”I bet they target certain neighborhoods more than others do too,” said Gail Ruhkamp , mother of a 16-year-old daughter. She blames stereotypes for the fact that more blacks than whites and more boys than girls are being picked up.

That makes parents of boys fearful.

“I’m more afraid for my son,” said Dexter Nixon. “I see a pattern of police behavior that looks like they target young black men. My son, who I don’t think would commit a crime even if he could get away with it, could be mistaken for a criminal simply because his age or the color of his skin. I would hate to think what could happen to him if a police officer decides to choose him for who they pick on tonight.”

Jeffries and McLendon both agreed that it was equally dangerous for girls and guys to be out late at night.

Jeffries said, “Some areas are more dangerous for guys because they are more at risk to getting robbed. With girls people might try to take advantage of them.”

“It depends on the cops and random people,” said McLendon. “With cops girls are safer because they aren’t going to really bother you. Not as much as they should, in comparison to as much as they do with males.”

Daniel Coco, a student a senior at City College adds, “There is this stigma to men where they are more aggressive and are able to commit crimes more than women.”

“The curfew doesn’t have a role in my life because I know what time I am supposed to be in the house,” said Jeffries.

McLendon said, ”I don’t see the purpose of the curfew because I have a curfew set by my parents.”

As the students got down from the short brick wall and walked away, the conversations about Baltimore’s new curfew continued.






About Karen Houppert

I'm a journalist and also Associate Director of the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University. I've been writing about menstruation--and a whole lot of other stuff--since the 1990s.

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