Baltimore County police will have an easier time arresting prostitutes thanks to anti-loitering legislation passed last night by the County Council.
The measure, introduced by Councilman Donald C. Mason, D-7th, gives police the authority, after one warning, to arrest suspected prostitutes simply for loitering.
Under provisions of the bill, the ladies of the night would face up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
The council also passed a charter amendment bill that, if approved by voters, would give each of the seven council members the authority to appoint one member to the 15-member county Planning Board.
Currently, the county executive appoints all 15 planning board members.
Council members can only recommend to the county executive a person from their respective district for a seat on the board. The charter amendment will go on the November general election ballot.
Merreen E. Kelly, an aide to County Executive Roger B. Hayden, said the administration doesn't oppose the change in appointment authority.
During the council's deliberation on the loitering bill, Capt. James W. Johnson, commander of the Essex Police District, told council members that the method of arrest followed by officers now wastes many hours that could be spent handling other crimes.
"We either have to use undercover police officers posing as customers in order to make an arrest or we have to spend hours observing prostitutes, waiting for them to travel to some secluded area and then sneaking up and catching them engaged in an illegal act with a customer," Captain Johnson said.
He said that, in the past several years, areas producing the largest number of prostitution arrests have been in the Pulaski Highway corridor in Rosedale and along Old Eastern Avenue in Essex.
Baltimore City has had a similar anti-prostitution loitering bill since 1977, Captain Johnson told the council.
Part of the problem along Pulaski Highway stems from the success of that city law, he said.
"City police have driven the prostitutes along Pulaski Highway out of the city and into the county," said Captain Johnson. "This law would give us comparable enforcement powers with the city."
The captain said if police notice suspected or known prostitutes engaging in standard prostitution activity, such as beckoning to motorists and getting in and out of vehicles, "with this legislation we, after first warning them, can arrest then for loitering."
Mr. Mason said he introduced the legislation after receiving complaints from neighborhood organizations in the Rosedale area.