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Curfew won't help Baltimore youth [Letter]

We are Baltimore youth with experiences of homelessness. We are trying to better ourselves and find somewhere to live and prosper.

The mayor and City Council say they want to expand curfew hours to save kids and reduce crime ("Council approves tough new curfew for city youths," May 12). Instead of a curfew, what about helping homeless youth and other young people?

A lot of kids who will be affected by an expanded curfew live in low-income areas. They don't have a yard to play in or a porch to sit on. What are they supposed to do? Sit around and watch television, if they have one? It's going to cause unnecessary problems for them and their families.

Kids should be able to be in public just like everyone else. Shouldn't a teenager be allowed to go to the store without worrying that he or she is going to get hassled by the police? There are a lot of programs that go past 9, like church services or wrestling or even school events. How does anyone know if you are on the street for one of these reasons? How do you prove it if the police don't believe you?

Baltimore Police aren't social workers. They shouldn't be confronting kids and asking for ID. If you are homeless and don't have an ID, how do you prove your age?

Are police going to get any training for youth? How are they going to decide whom to stop? We're afraid the police will use the curfew to instill fear in young people and to stereotype kids as "bad" or "rowdy" or "ghetto." This will be another way of rounding up young black youth.

Picking up kids and taking them to some curfew center isn't going to help them. What are kids going to do at the center? And fining their parents $500? It just means somebody can't pay rent or somebody's going hungry. Forced counseling doesn't make sense either. Just because your child was outside at night doesn't mean your family needs counseling.

Instead of expanding the curfew and making the police enforce it, there are real ways to help kids be safe and get services. Do more to support places like the YES Drop-In Center, which provides a safe place for kids to go and provides important services. Open the recreation centers back up, create more emergency shelters for youth and provide more jobs. If city leaders really want to help kids, they should take the initiative to do things that actually help young people, including homeless youth, instead of passing laws that put more challenges in our way.

Nyasha Dixon and Ebony Jenkins, Baltimore

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