Baltimore’s Latest Curfew Strikes Conversation On Youth Safety
By Jada Vanderpool, Shasta Chisholm and Lane’ Johnson
Baltimore city’s new curfew prompts dissatisfaction among some community members, but others have no problem with it.
For some teens, the new curfew law poses no challenge to their schedule. “I really don’t got a problem with it because I don’t even be outside like that,” said Quantay McGill, 15.
Quanta and his sister Myasia McGill, spend almost every night in the house.
“On weekdays, I just go to school and go to practice, volleyball, but I be in the house at like 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock if we got a game. And on weekends I don’t really go out, ” said Myasia McGill, 16.
On a typical Saturday night, the siblings lounge around the house on social media—Instagram and Twitter. They even volunteer to babysit their younger sister so their parents can have “date night.”
Though he has never been stopped, Quanta has witnessed a curfew pickup. “It’s a white van,” he said. “It sit outside on the corner or something, at night time, to see if people outside and if it do, like it chase them and if they do catch them they take them to the curfew center.”
For other teens in Baltimore, it’s more than just a van ride.
“It’s like you going to jail,” said Tariq Smith, 17. “They didn’t really say too much. They throw you back there, they take you down there, place you in a holding cell. It’s cold.”
Some youth believe the curfew targets African American males. “My initial interpretation of the curfew was like, it was made for like, us African Americans,” said Marty Ritch,16.
“Think if we was put in a situation, and if it was me at my age and a Caucasian the same age about 16 or 17, I think that they would go for me first,” said Ritch. Describing the curfew as “unfair,” he said black teens weren’t alone in being out late, “It’s not just us, it’s caucasian teenagers, as well.”
Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has stated that teens will not be chased or searched during curfew violations but the teens in Baltimore are telling a different story.
“So this is like a routine thing, you know,” said Ritch. “Ever since the clock struck 12 and that curfew thing went into effect, man, we been terrorized. They don’t play no games.”
Ritch doesn’t race home to beat the curfew, but rather to avoid the police. “Oh, I run every time, they call me Flash, you know.”
Other teens say there are good reasons sometimes to be out late at night. “I feel as though it’s unfair for some people because they don’t know people’s problems and stuff,” said Smith, explaining that some youth are out late at night because of transportation problems, walking or take the bus which doesn’t always run on time.
Brandon Scott, the Baltimore City Councilmember who created the new curfew, says the law aims to help those in these instances. “The curfew itself is our way to connect our most vulnerable children and their families and the services that they need,” he said. “These are the kids who no one’s looking after, the ones who no one seems cares about, the ones who come and say I got caught on purpose because I’m hungry. These are the children who come [to the curfew centers], and what we want to see is how can we impact that child’s life.”
While some teens oppose the curfew, many parents applaud the rules. “I think it’s good. It’s nice that the city is actually paying attention to our kids out there,” said a Baltimore parent who gave his name only as Tay. “I got my own children and so yeah, they shouldn’t be out past 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock at night. They should be going in the house about 9 or 10 o’clock. At my age I was in the house before the street lights came on.”
“Most of the children that’s out here that’s under 18 are the ones that are committing crimes and doing a lot of things,” said parent Kristol Perry. “ Tourists are afraid to come to Baltimore and they think the worst of us because of what a lot of children are out here doing.”
Though she favors the curfew, she questions the $500 fine for parents who are repeat offenders.
“We have so many crooked police in Baltimore so a lot of times I think that with anything that’s doing with money in Baltimore, it seems like it’s more for the government. It’s not for us, like the money is not going back into the community,” said Perry.
“So if they are fining the parents $500 then where is the money going?”