Baltimore readies plan to enforce youth curfew using social workers over police in ‘communal parenting’ strategy

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Mayor Brandon Scott, center, and Shantay Jackson, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, speaking at podium, are joined by city and community partners at Rash Field to explain the city’s summer youth engagement strategy, called B’More this Summer. At left behind a poster explaining the curfew engagement process for youth is Faith Leach, the city's chief administrative officer.

Two days before Baltimore City is set to begin enforcing a youth curfew, elected leaders, police and community partners unveiled a strategy labeled as “communal parenting” that aims to be non-punitive for young people.

Shantay Jackson, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said at a news conference Wednesday that although past curfew attempts have overemphasized the role of law enforcement, alienating young people, this summer’s attempt would emphasize support, safety and engagement.


The curfew, which will start being enforced Friday, is one facet of a larger summer youth engagement strategy, dubbed B’More this Summer, that will feature city-sponsored programming ranging from midnight basketball to pool parties and concerts, officials said at the news conference.

But children and teens gathering in Baltimore during nighttime hours this summer could be ordered to vacate or be transported to what officials are calling a Youth Connection Center, according to a memo from the Baltimore Police commissioner.


If police encounter young people violating the curfew, they are instructed to turn on body cameras and contact both their supervisor and the Youth Connection Centers, which officials said should mean the child’s primary contact would be with a non-law-enforcement staff member.

Police officers who encounter a crowd of 10 or more school-aged residents in violation of the curfew are directed to tell the group to disperse in three successive announcements, before the individuals could be relocated by a Youth Connection Center employee. The young people then could be picked up by a parent or guardian from the center, the police document said.

The details of the enforcement strategy come weeks after Mayor Brandon Scott said the city would enforce a strict curfew this summer. Scott has characterized the move as a way to protect young people and announced it following an April 10 shooting near the Inner Harbor that left two teens wounded.

The Youth Connection Centers, according to Scott, will balance “positive engagement opportunities with accountability for youth and their parents.”

“These are not detention centers for our young people,” Scott said.

Under the plan, about nine to 10 trained staff will monitor three primary locations — the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Federal Hill — engaging with young people and offering them transportation in city school vehicles operated by school system bus drivers to Youth Connection Centers. A trained youth peer and social worker will accompany young people in the vehicles.

The two centers will be located at the C.C. Jackson Recreation Center in Park Heights on the city’s west side and the Rita Church Recreation Center in Clifton Park on the east side. Social workers at the centers will have access to city school emergency contact records for young people taken to them. Those who are not collected by a parent or guardian by the end of the night will be referred to social services, officials said.

The police curfew memo makes clear that the relocation option is for children or teens who are not committing or suspected of criminal activity and that officers should not stop or take someone into custody solely for a curfew violation. It also stresses that the purpose is to “ensure a youth’s safety by the youth relocating to a place they are permitted to be at night.”


The memo adds that “only minors consenting to be transported may be transported by the Center.”

Jackson, too, said Wednesday that young people won’t be detained or forced to go to the centers but that social workers and youth peers would “strongly encourage” them to go home.

“At the end of the day, if a young person decides that they are not going to disperse, again, we won’t be forcing young people into vehicles,” Jackson said. “But I suspect that we’ll either see young people go home because we plan on being pretty relentless, or getting into the vehicles.”

To encourage accountability from families, officials will issue parents and guardians a written warning the first time a child is taken to a center, followed by a $50 fine or family counseling for a second offense and a $500 fine or community service for a third offense.

Scott and other administrators touted the plan as the “village coming together” to protect young people while limiting unnecessary involvement with law enforcement.

“Ultimately, this is about communal parenting,” Jackson said. “These are all of our children.”


The plan was crafted with input from more than 300 young people involved in a series of discussions across eight schools and recreation centers, Scott said.

The city has long had a year-round curfew, but it hasn’t always been enforced. Critics of the strategy say curfews create negative interactions with police and are ineffective in curbing violence. Heather Warnken, from the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform, has said there also is evidence that curfews lead to racially discriminatory enforcement.

In the police memo, Harrison wrote the curfew enforcement was not “intended to lead to an unnecessary increase in interactions between BPD and the City’s young people.”

That’s why, he said, the actual transport would be handled by people other than police officers, calling the approach consistent with the goal of reducing youth involvement with criminal or juvenile justice systems.

The memo’s directive takes effect beginning Friday and runs through Sept. 4. During that period, the department’s existing “juvenile curfew” policy will be updated and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the city’s monitoring team for its consent decree with the federal government over constitutional policing, the memo said.

Mayor Brandon Scott, joined by Shantay Jackson, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, second from left, and other city and community partners, announces the city’s summer youth engagement strategy, called B’More this Summer. Behind them at Rash Field are Sonja Santelises, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, at left, and Kyla Liggett-Creel, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, at right.

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The curfew, according to the memo, is in place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for children under age 14.


Teens aged 14 to 17 will see a curfew of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Memorial Day weekend through the last Sunday of August. The rest of the year, those teens will have an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on Friday and Saturday nights and a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew the other days of the week, the memo says.

Exceptions include children and teens who are accompanied by their parents; exercising First Amendment rights; in a car traveling on the interstate; working or traveling to or from work; experiencing an emergency; on a sidewalk near their home; and traveling to or from school, religious or certain recreational activities. The memo said approved activities could include those sponsored by the city, by a civic organization or by another entity taking responsibility for them.

Jackson said city staff wouldn’t be identifying or requesting identification from each young person. Rather, she said, they would use their “best judgment” about what “the appearance of the young person tells us with regard to age.”

The city printed 80,000 palm cards notifying families of the curfew and directing them to the teen zone page on the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success. A card will be sent home Friday with every city school student, officials said.

About an hour after city leaders unveiled the plan, members of the mayor’s staff answered questions about the strategy during a City Council hearing.

“I’m curious about how we’re thinking about our own internal capacity to pull this off,” said Councilman Zeke Cohen, adding that he worried the intensive nature of the work could put a strain on city staff.