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Residents see some gray areas in city's new curfew

Percy Smith is against Baltimore's new curfew. Like many of its critics, he's fine with keeping kids off the street late at night; he's just concerned about how it will be implemented.

"I'm asking from an economic perspective," he said, "will this be Fells Point or East Baltimore?" He added later that he doesn't want a curfew "just protecting the Inner Harbor."

The Govans man and more than 100 other city residents came to Morgan State University on Monday night to learn about and voice their support of or opposition to the policy, which goes into effect Aug. 8.

Residents asked pointed questions to a panel of city officials that included Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and Councilman Brandon Scott, who sponsored the law. Some worried about how police will engage youths; others asked how parents will be held accountable for allowing their children to roam the city unsupervised. Many of the questions — from supporters, opponents and the curious — addressed specific parts of the law and neighborhood issues.

Despite his reservations, Smith said he wanted to find out find out how the organization he volunteers for, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, could assist with the policy.

Considered one of the strictest in the nation, the curfew requires children under 14 to be inside after 9 p.m. and 14- to 17-year-olds to be in by 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 on weekend nights.

It includes exemptions for school, work, religious and recreational activities, and allows children to be out if they're supervised with parents. Children found in violation are brought to a curfew center, where their parents are called, and may face fines of up to $500, though most pay less.

The Rev. Kinji Scott, a Baptist preacher who is often critical of city officials, spoke approvingly about the plan to make children safe and hold parents accountable. He said he hoped to see school resource officers play a role.

Many of the questions focused on how children will be handled, but Roxanne Allen, co-chair of the Baltimore Education Coalition, said she worries about noncompliant parents.

"I'm a little concerned this will target certain populations in the city," she said. "There's too much gray."

A second forum on the curfew will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 29, at the University of Baltimore Law Center.

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