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Baltimore poised to impose strict new youth curfew

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BALTIMORE, July 29 (Reuters) - City officials in crime-ridden Baltimore on Tuesday defended plans for one of the toughest U.S. youth curfews against criticism from residents who were skeptical about police enforcement of the new law.

In a forum with residents, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the measure, set to take effect on Aug. 8, was aimed at getting children off the streets before they were put in danger.

"This is not about criminalizing young black children but to reach them before the only option for them is law enforcement," the mayor told the crowd of about 100 people.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he had sometimes come across children riding bicycles across the city at 3 a.m. When the parents were contacted, they had no idea where their children were, he said.

"They should not be out there, and you should be honest about that," Batts said.

The new curfew in Baltimore, the setting for such gritty television police dramas as "The Wire", will make it a violation for a youth under 14 to be outside their homes after 9 p.m. year-round. Those aged 14 to 16 would be banned from being outside on school nights after 10 p.m. and on other nights after 11 p.m.

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