The city of Baltimore has been experiencing a surge in youth-related violence and death. Just five months into the year, it has been the deadliest on record since 2015. So far there have been 39 shootings involving youths with 11 dead so far. This year marks another wave of violence that the young people of Baltimore must face.
In reaction to the rise in youth deaths, the city government has instituted a curfew for the city’s youth. Although city officials have played up their concerns for young people, their proposals are not solutions at all. And the fact that the mayor, police chief, and other top officials are Black does not mean that the institutional system they lead is not racist. They have inherited a system built on centuries of racist practices.
Experts who have studied the usefulness of youth curfews in the face of violence are sounding alarms. The data has shown curfews to be ineffective in dealing with violence inflicted on youths. But putting in a curfew increases the odds for young people to have life-threatening encounters with police, criminalizing houseless or abused youths, and putting poor and Black families into an unwarranted situation with Child Protective Services.
This comes at a time when young people frequently are trying to find places to spend time, but are pushed more and more into the corners of society. On Sunday, April 9, at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor during the Baltimore City Public School’s spring break, 200 young people had gathered. Police soon arrived to break up the crowd, but in the process two teens were shot.
On top of this, many malls are banning unaccompanied teens while summer programs for children and teens are being dropped or shortened. Beyond being pushed out of physical spaces, children and youth are facing more and more alienation in their lives. Faced in many cases with crippling poverty, lack of job opportunities and promising futures, poorly run schools, the alienation of social media, and a total lack of respect by the system they live under, it’s no surprise youth violence is spiking. With no respect, no future, and having to survive in poverty, many youths turn to violence to survive.
Young people deserve to be safe, no matter where they go. Taking away what few resources they have is not the solution. And we don’t need more police and punishments. But in a society where so-called “law and order” protects the property of the One Percent above the interests of everyone else, most young people’s needs are not addressed, let alone met. This is another reminder that the only people we can rely on to protect us are ourselves, not the people in power.