Few Crimes At Adult Bookstores, Despite Barker's Call For Legislation

December 01, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

County police agencies have little documentation of crimes occurringat the four adult bookstores in Harford, though a county councilman says crime is the main reason he appointed a committee to draft a bill to regulate the stores.

Councilman Philip J. Barker, D-District F, said he appointed the committee because he sees a need "to regulate unlawful activity that might be associated with adult bookstores."

The committee is scheduled to meet again at 10 a.m. Dec. 6 in theCounty Council chambers, in the County Courthouse in Bel Air.

"We're not trying to violate anyone's constitutional rights, but throughno fault of the owner, there may be illegal activity drawn to an adult bookstore," Barker said. "A licensing agreement would protect customers, and should work both ways and protect the owners, too."

However, Maryland state police records show that of the four bookstores -- Wide Horizons, U.S. Books, Highway Craft, Gift & Book Store and The Depot -- troopers have responded to calls at only U.S. Books in thepast 11 months.

Sgt. B. J. Caudill said troopers investigated an armed robbery at U.S. Books in February and a theft there in March.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office and Havre de Grace police reported no responses by patrols to any of the adult bookstore locations for any reason.

But Caudill contends the lack of statistics doesn'tmean there isn't a related crime problem.

"A lot of crimes associated with adult bookstores go unreported. If two males hook up together, then leave and something happens, it won't be reported," Caudill said.

One reason for the low numbers, said Caudill, is that the agency doesn't have a computerized system that can record the number oftimes troopers responded to calls from a specific address.

"Unless you have the name of the victim, it would be hard to find," Caudillsaid. "We've had two calls so far this year that I can find records for, but I'm sure there have been more."

Caudill said he bases that statement on the personal observations of undercover troopers who earlier this year raided U.S. Books, hoping to generate new leads in ayear-old homicide investigation.

In the March 23 raid, officers did not find any new leads in the stabbing death of James O. Blakeley,last seen alive at U.S. Books.

Barker withdrew a first draft of his bill to regulate the businesses, which he said he developed after hearing complaints from constituents, and appointed a 13-member committee to study the issue.

"We need to make the stores more responsible," said County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, at the committee's first meeting.

The public health issue, a new angle suggestedby some committee members at the last meeting, is similar to the oneused by Salisbury, on the Eastern Shore. Last month, Salisbury's city council passed a bill requiring that peep show booths be open and have solid walls separating them. Anne Arundel County has used zoning,prohibiting adult bookstores and peep shows from operating in residential neighborhoods.

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