Baltimore's Safe Summer Program kicks off amid launch of youth curfew policy
By Dennis Valera,2023-05-28
BALTIMORE -- The city's strategy to keep youth safe turned a page on Saturday. Together with Safe Streets , the city kicked off the third annual Safe Summer Program.
This comes just as the city's updated curfew policy has gone into effect.
Lifelong Baltimorean April Grady noted that the past few months have been particularly difficult for the city and its young people.
"It's been way, way, way more violence lately, especially with our children," she said. "It seems it's targeted at our children."
So, when she heard about the Safe Summer Program's kickoff event at Druid Hill Park , she immediately wanted to bring her family.
"This is very needed," Grady said. "They are killing our children like it's nothing. Anything to keep the children off the streets, and keep them busy and keep them engaged and keep them out of trouble, is greatly welcomed."
At the kickoff, families enjoyed music and face painting. They were also able to connect with some city resources and services.
Throughout the summer, Safe Streets will be putting on nearly a dozen more events like the one it hosted Saturday. They will all have the goal of keeping kids away from trouble and away from violence.
"One event may be a movie night; another event may be an art ceremony where they paint pictures," Marty Henson, a program manager with Safe Streets, said. "Anything that's positive and conducive and empowering for this day and time right now."
Saturday marks the second day of the city's updated curfew policy. It went into effect on Friday. For youth under the age of 14, they're not allowed to be out and about past 9 p.m. Meanwhile, teenagers from the ages of 14 to 16 can stay out until 11 p.m.
Many people who attended the kickoff event were supportive of the curfew, wanting everything to be done to protect kids.
"This is a collective movement. Like, everybody has to be a part of this because violence affects everyone," Henson said. "We just have to lean in from a place of understanding. We can't find blame or be judgmental about the things that have taken place. We just have to be solutions based."
Those youth who are caught out after curfew will be taken to a Youth Connection Center, not a police station. That's also where their parent or guardian will need to pick them up.
Baltimore City Public Schools was at the kickoff, too. School representatives handed out books for a summer read and other information for families.
The school district's plan is to do this at as many events as it can as a means of providing another way to keep kids engaged and out of trouble.
"There's such a wide range of things that are going on where young people are involved," Sabrina Sutton, the neighborhood relations director for Baltimore City Public Schools, said. "So, we're hoping that we're helping in that as well."
The Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, or MONSE has put a list of summer events online.