While Mayor Brandon Scott is declaring the launch of his summer youth curfew “a complete success,” his aides are experiencing trouble recruiting volunteers to be on the lookout for underage teens.
Today Interim Deputy Mayor Letitia Dzirasa issued a “high-importance alert” to city employees, noting that the administration is “challenged” in finding adult eyes to monitor minors expected to congregate this weekend at Federal Hill, Fells Point and the Inner Harbor.
The idea is to use civilians, rather than police, to “minimize unnecessary law enforcement interactions” and connect young people (age 16 and under) who violate the curfew to social, mental and emotional supports, not punitive measures.
The plan was announced by the mayor following an April shooting near the Inner Harbor that left two teens wounded.
“There were no major incidents and no need to transport anyone to the Youth Connection Centers,” Scott announced after the first weekend of the program.
For his deputy mayor, the immediate task is enticing city employees to go to Rash Field, Broadway Square Market and the open space between the two Harborplace pavilions between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. this Friday (June 2) and again on Saturday.
The volunteers, who will be compensated with overtime or comp time, are expected to report to a curfew command center at Rash Field, don identifying yellow shirts and then spread out to the three sites.
Teens shy of the required age – the volunteers won’t demand seeing IDs, Dzirasa says, but will “use their best judgment in determining youth’s ages” – will be engaged via these trauma-informed protocols:
• “Let them know that curfew activation is in effect until 6 a.m.
• “Encourage them to make their way home.
• “Ask if they need assistance calling a parent/guardian for pickup.
• “Let them know what youth activities are happening this night and in the weekend lookahead.
• “If youth are still in place after 15 minutes, reach out to supervisor to mobilize transportation engagement team.”
No police protection is provided for the team members, who are instructed to call a supervisor, not 911, in case of an emergency.
The transportation team consists of school system bus drivers operating school vehicles who will take the underaged who agree to go to one of two Youth Connection Centers.
First Amendment Rights
“Only minors consenting to be transported may be transported by the Center,” says a related memo, which further outlines the following exceptions to the curfew rules:
• Children and teens accompanied by their parents.
• Teens traveling to and from work.
• Teens experiencing an emergency.
• Teens engaged in religious and certain recreational activities.
• Teens “exercising their First Amendment rights.”
A trained youth peer and social worker will accompany young people in the buses to the C.C. Jackson Recreation Center in Park Heights and the Rita Church Recreation Center in Clifton Park.
There social workers will have access to the school contact records of the children brought to them.
Those who are not picked up by a parent or guardian by the end of the night will be referred to social services, says Shantay Jackson, head of the summer curfew program until June 30, when she leaves her post as director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE).
Back at Rash Field, Broadway Square and Harborplace, the volunteers will be required to remain at the “worksite” until 2 a.m.
However, they will not have to go through background checks, clearing them to work with children and youth, because they are not individually involved with young people, according to the Dzirasa memo.
In fact, for the most part, the workers will be tasked with “capturing data” on city-issued tablets.
And what’s the incentive for doing this six-hour graveyard shift?
“The time spent supporting this effort can be recovered as comp time/OT,” says Dzirasa, who asks that – given the time pressure – applications be submitted by noon tomorrow.