Baltimore poised to impose strict new youth curfew

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Baltimore poised to impose strict new youth curfew
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 22: Baltimore Police officers from the Violent Crime Impact Section, VCIS, arrest a drug buyer October 22, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Known as a violent city, Baltimore police officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 23: A Baltimore Police homicide officer investigates an apparent suicide by a unidentified man lying on the back steps of a church October 23, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The hand gun used in the apparent suicide lies underneath the victim. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 22: Baltimore Police officers from the Violent Crime Impact Section, VCIS, arrest a drug buyer October 22, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Known as a violent city, Baltimore police officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 22: Baltimore Police officers patrol the high crime western neighborhoods October 22, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore police officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: Baltimore Police display a 9mm Beretta handgun recovered from a male arrested for drug dealing October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Known as a violent city, Baltimore officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past few years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: A Baltimore Police Department detective questions a male October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore police officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years.The city's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 21: A Baltimore Police officer describes how the closed circuit television screens monitors high crime locations for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, left, at the CityWatch Center October 21, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The CitiWatch center has over 500 high definition cameras placed throughout the city and is able to closely follow and record crime scenes and suspects. Known as a violent city, Baltimore police have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past few years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 21: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, 40, views closed circuit television screens of high crime locations at the CityWatch Center October 21, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rawlings-Blake was sworn in as Baltimore's 49th mayor on February 4, 2010. The CitiWatch center has over 500 high definition cameras placed throughout the city and are able to follow and record crime scenes and suspects. Known as a violent city, Baltimore police officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld's lll, police hat sits on a car seat October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Commissioner Bealefeld lll, 47, has been with the BPD for 29 years and three years as Police Commissioner. Known as a violent city, Baltimore police officials under Bealefeld's tenure have been able to lower violent crime rates since 2007. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: Baltimore Police officers watch a male under arrest for drug dealing October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. While the man was chased by police, he threw a 9mm hand gun which was later recovered. Baltimore officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: A Baltimore Police officer watches a male under arrest for drug dealing October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. While the man was chased by police, he threw a 9mm hand gun which was later recovered. Known as a violent city, Baltimore officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: Baltimore Police officers attempt to control a juvenile while Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld lll, white shirt, oversees in a variety store October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The boy may have thrown a drug packet inside the store. Known as a violent city, Baltimore officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: Baltimore Police officers attempt to control a domestic dispute in an apartment building October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Known as a violent city, Baltimore officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: A Baltimore Police officer watches a male under arrest for drug dealing October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. While the man was chased by police, he threw a 9mm hand gun which was later recovered. Baltimore officials have been able to lower violent crime rates over the past three years. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 19: Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld lll, speaks with the mother of a juvenile who became belligerent with police in a variety store October 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Commissioner Bealefeld lll, 47, has been with the BPD for 29 years. Known as a violent city, Baltimore police officials under Bealefeld's tenure have been able to lower violent crime rates since 2007. The department's 'Bad Guys With Guns' program, a 3-year old initiative, aims to take guns off the streets and away from the city's most violent people. Police statistics show homicides in Baltimore are down 25% for 2010 and shootings have been reduced 31% over two years. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
The street is roped off near the scene of a multiple shooting Thursday, June 16, 2011 in Baltimore. Baltimore police say a gunman shot six people sitting on a porch in southwest Baltimore Thursday afternoon, killing one and critically injuring two others. (AP Photo/Alex Dominguez)
This Thursday, April 14, 2011 image from surveillance video provided by the FBI shows a bank robbery suspect that the FBI says robbed the same downtown Baltimore bank twice, once on March 24 and again on April 14. (AP Photo/FBI)
Baltimore police stand near the scene where an early morning shooting occurred Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011 in Baltimore. A police officer and another man died after shots erupted early Sunday outside a Baltimore nightclub where a fight broke out, leaving one other officer and three women wounded by gunfire, police said. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Teresa Green, right, a neighbor of Paul Warren Pardus, is interviewed at her home as her family members watch in Arlington, Va. on Thursday, Sept. 16, 201. Pardus became distraught as he was being briefed on his mother's condition by a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, pulled a gun and shot the doctor Thursday, then killed his mother and himself in her room at the world-famous medical center, police said. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A Baltimore police officer directs a man away from the scene near where a man shot a doctor at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
A Baltimore County police official collects evidence as she works a crime scene where a police officer was shot, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006, in Perry Hall, Md. A Baltimore County police officer was shot early Thursday after a robbery at a grocery store in the Perry Hall area of Baltimore County and a suspect was found dead in a shed behind a private home where he had taken refuge. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert addresses members of the media during a press conference about the abduction of Vi Ripken Wednesday, July 25, 2012, in Aberdeen, Maryland. Ripken, the 74-year-old mother of Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr., was abducted at gunpoint from her Harford County home and returned there unharmed, according to authorities, who were searching for a motive in the bizarre kidnapping. (Matt Button/Aegis via Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images)
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By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - City officials in crime-ridden Baltimore on Tuesday defended plans for one of the toughest U.S. youth curfews against criticism from residents who were skeptical about police enforcement of the new law.

In a forum with residents, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the measure, set to take effect on Aug. 8, was aimed at getting children off the streets before they were put in danger.

"This is not about criminalizing young black children but to reach them before the only option for them is law enforcement," the mayor told the crowd of about 100 people.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he had sometimes come across children riding bicycles across the city at 3 a.m. When the parents were contacted, they had no idea where their children were, he said.

"They should not be out there, and you should be honest about that," Batts said.

The new curfew in Baltimore, the setting for such gritty television police dramas as "The Wire", will make it a violation for a youth under 14 to be outside their homes after 9 p.m. year-round. Those aged 14 to 16 would be banned from being outside on school nights after 10 p.m. and on other nights after 11 p.m.

Police could take violators to a curfew center, where they and the parents will have access to social services. Parents would have to take city-approved counseling classes and could face a $500 fine for repeat violations, up from the previous $300.

Children younger than 17 can now stay out until 11 on weeknights and until midnight on weekends.

CRITICISM

Many residents at the forum said they opposed the law because police officers were often overly aggressive and failed to investigate crimes.

One man told the mayor: "Youth are a ticking time bomb". He said parents would put their low-wage jobs at risk if they had to leave to pick up their children at a curfew center.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake replied: "Once you decide to be a parent you are a parent 24 hours a day, and when you have difficulties you cannot cast off your responsibility."

The forum at the University of Baltimore Law School was sometimes interrupted by shouts from the crowd. When the session ended, members of a leftist group, Fight Imperialism Stand Together, shouted obscenities and chanted: "No new curfew".

FBI statistics for 2012 show Baltimore, which has about 625,000 people, almost two-thirds of them black, had one of the highest rates of violent crime of any U.S. city, with 218 murders. But there are signs that crime is starting to fall. The mayor's office said homicides for the year so far totaled 116, down 14 percent from the same period last year.

The American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the Fraternal Order of Police, have argued that the tougher curfew will be ineffective and burdens police officers who are given few guidelines about how to enforce it.

The ACLU of Maryland said in a statement that the curfew was more likely to entangle young people in the criminal justice system.

Baltimore is among many U.S. cities with curfews. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported in 1997 that 80 percent of 347 cities surveyed had nighttime youth curfews.

A 2011 University of California-Berkeley analysis of FBI data showed arrests of youths affected by curfew restrictions fell 15 percent in the first year and about 10 percent in following years.

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