City police are cracking down on nighttime truancy, and children caught on the streets during curfew hours are detained at an East Baltimore site.
The parents of repeat curfew-breakers can face fines of up to $300. The city curfew applies to those 16 and younger and lasts from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Col. Debbie Owens, chief of patrol, said first-time offenders will not be issued citations because many parents don't know about the curfew law.
Juveniles picked up are taken to the Baltimore Truancy Assessment Center at 400 N. Caroline St., where a nighttime truancy program was restarted six weeks ago, Owens said.
The joint venture involves the Police Department, school police and the Mayor's Office for Children, Youth and Families and will keep the city's 18 to 20 nighttime truancy officers from having to return every child to his or her home.
Children brought to the center are seated in circles and encouraged to discuss problems with each other. They are also given access to additional services from the Office of Children, Youth and Families.
"It's not a lockup-type environment," Owens said. "They're not handcuffed; they're just transported there. It's a safe zone for them, a lot of them."
Owens said the children's guardians are often surprised. "In some cases, it's an eye-opening experience for parents who have to get up at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning and come across town and pick their kid up that they maybe thought was inside," she said.