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Strict Baltimore curfews are no help to citizens

When the word “curfew” starts buzzing around Baltimore, it stirs memories of this year’s riots. A strict curfew was enforced for all non-essential personnel from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m, which included and affected restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues.

Some do not realize that Baltimore already had, and continues to enforce, one of the strictest curfews in place for young people, and an earlier last call for bars and clubs than other cities.

The current curfew in Baltimore is 2 a.m. for bars and clubs. They start to have last call around 1:30 a.m, so people will be out the door by 2 a.m. This is actually a fairly early last call and curfew, compared to other major cities in surrounding and extended areas.

Last call in Washington D.C. is 3 a.m. on the weekends and 2 a.m. on the weekdays, while New York City has last call at 4 a.m.

Baltimore’s early curfew makes it hard to compete with surrounding areas, like D.C., with later curfews. It is hard for young people, like legally-aged UMBC students, to enjoy their nights out with an early and strict curfew looming over their heads. College students who want to go out for a night in the city often opt for D.C. over Baltimore to avoid the early curfews and strict last call policies.

Customers at bars and clubs will start getting warned about leaving starting around 1 a.m, and cannot get a drink past 1:30 a.m. This is a very early time to wrap up a night out, and causes more stress to customers who now have to worry about getting off the streets for their 2 a.m. curfew.

While the last calls in Baltimore cause an annoyance to adults, an even worse and more ridiculous curfew exists for minors in the city that causes police bullying to the youth.

A strict curfew exists for minors in Baltimore that requires children under 14 to be off the streets every night of the year by 9 p.m. Teenagers 14 through 16 can be out until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends during the summer. This law was put in place in 2014, and replaced an earlier law that allowed all children under 17 to stay out until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on the weekends.

These strict laws and curfews do not help the city or young people. Strict curfews are supposed to help the youth in the city, but only really produce more confrontation with police officers who have to bring more young people into the station.

During the first two months the curfew was enforced, police stopped 147 minors in total. Males made up 76 percent of that number, while 126 of the minors were black teens and the remaining 19 were white. So even at the curfew’s very beginning, police were targeting black males and getting away with it because of the change in law.

Parents have to pay the city money when their child stays out past the city’s mandated curfew. These kinds of enforcements are one of the reasons there is so much discord between young people in Baltimore and police officers.

Police officers are able to stop young people for essentially nothing, and it is allowed because it is past curfew. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland were the original opposers of the 2014 bill, and protested wildly against it.

Sonia Kumar, an ACLU Maryland staff attorney told NBC News, “What these laws do is give the ability to officers to stop any young-looking person who is outside at a certain time and ask what they’re doing, ask for identification. It affects not only those who are explicitly covered by the curfew, but reaches older adolescents and young people as well.”

When this law passed, it gave the police the ability to interrogate and target young people in addition to adults. The strict curfews Baltimore has imposed over the years whether they are for minors or young adults has not helped the current state of Baltimore or the safety of its citizens. This year’s events show that has only made it worse.