Jolted by the shootings of two police officers over the weekend, the City Council returned from its summer recess yesterday and went right to work on the growing plague of violence in Baltimore.
"This is the most somber moment of our great city's recent history," said Council President Mary Pat Clarke. The shooting of a police officer "is a breach of the social contract. And every citizen stands violated."
There was no shortage of legislative ideas to combat the problem.
With the urging of the Pen Lucy neighborhood -- the scene this summer of several shootings, including one in which two people died and six others were wounded -- the council passed a bill that would allow the police commissioner to impose a curfew on businesses in any of the city's 45 certified drug-free zones. Police have wide power to disperse loiterers in such zones because of their histories of drug dealing.
A similar bill passed the council in the spring, but Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke did not sign it because the city solicitor said it was not constitutional. The council amended the bill yesterday in hopes of addressing that concern.
Among other crime-fighting measures initiated by the council:
* Ms. Clarke called for the state police to set up "checkpoints" on the city line in an attempt to stop drug and gun dealers from coming into the city. She said the idea could be modeled on sobriety checkpoints, with police doing license-plate checks on out-of-state vehicles they deem suspicious. She would not address the constitutionality of her idea, saying only the rights of law-abiding citizens are being violated by criminals.
* Fifth District Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector introduced a resolution calling on the police commissioner to look into starting a program to provide financial incentives for police officers to renovate and move into vacant city homes. "We need to put some good apples in the barrel," she said.
* Ms. Clarke introduced a resolution urging support for a program being organized by a Northwest Baltimore minister that calls for residents to surrender their firearms voluntarily.