But the curfews are already causing controversy. Supporters say the curfews will keep kids safe and help curb rising crime; but residents and civil rights advocates criticized the curfew, saying police could become too aggressive with the city’s youth in a town where the relationship between police and the black community is already strained. Some say it’s tantamount to kids being forced on house arrest.
“There’s already a huge amount of police brutality, with adults being targeted, but now police are going to have the green light to do the exact same thing to young people,” Colleen Davidson, a youth organizer who opposes the curfew, told reporters. Mayor Rawlings-Blake, who is African American, said she supports the new curfew. “I am not willing to gamble on the lives of our children,” she said.
Here’s the issue: Baltimore has one of the highest crime rates in the country and homicides are increasing. So is it fair to impose curfews on Baltimore’s young people, many of whom are black? Will keeping them off the streets actually reduce crime or will it result in more confrontations with police? Certainly a case could be argued that the more police interact with black youth, the greater the probability that tensions could flare up. And what are police planning to do with young people who are violation of the curfew? This seems problematic.
“In concept, this may be a good idea,” said Chuck Drago, a police procedures expert who worked for the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police department when they instituted a juvenile curfew in the late 1990s. “But it’s very difficult and very rare that a police department can actually follow through with these curfews.” And some lawyers even argue that the new curfew is legally unconstitutional.
“This is not a criminal enforcement act by the police,” Rawlings-Blake said. “This is about taken them out of harm’s way before a situation materializes where their being on the street becomes a law enforcement concern,” she said. “We have to look for ways to support kids in need, vulnerable children,” the mayor added. “One way we identify those kids are the ones that are out unsupervised.”
The mayor seems firm in her beliefs. Only time will tell if the curfews are a good idea – or trouble waiting to happen. What do you think?
(Photo: City of Baltimore)