Loitering bill with $1,000 fine targets Brooklyn Park prostitution

January 04, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Attempting to discourage prostitution along Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn Park, the County Council last night unanimously passed an anti-loitering bill that includes an attention-getting $1,000 fine.

The bill, which goes to the county executive for his signature, was introduced by Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat. The measure could give frustrated police officers a means to drive away suspected prostitutes.

Under the bill, someone refusing an officer's request to move on would be subject to a citation or arrest, with a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail.

Assistant State's Attorney William Katcef said the current loitering law mandates only a 30-day maximum penalty for a first offense and a 60-day sentence for a second offense. He said the $1,000 fine approved last night is a penalty that is more likely to discourage prostitutes, who usually solicit on the street and in convenience store parking lots.

County Officer Sam Sweet, who patrols the northern portion of Ritchie Highway near Fifth and Sixth avenues where most of the prostitution activity occurs, had suggested to Mr. Bachman that he draft the law, which is patterned on a Baltimore ordinance.

Officer Sweet said it is virtually impossible for him to arrest prostitutes for soliciting, because when they see his uniform they always have an excuse for standing on the street, such as waiting for a ride.

"Me being in uniform, there's no law I can enforce upon them," he said. "I see a prostitute and I know her by name and there's nothing I can do to her. . . . This has gone on for two years, almost every day. There's nothing I can do."

Detective William Corbett of the county vice squad said prostitution has become not just a nuisance in the area, but a health problem. Police have made more than 100 arrests in the past two years, mostly by undercover officers, and 80 percent involve repeat offenders. Most are intravenous drug users, the PTC detective said, and have tested positive for AIDS.

Rick Schulze, who is a coordinator of the Olde Brooklyn Park neighborhood's security patrol, said he continually encounters prostitutes in his vigils. "As early as 6 o'clock in the morning, people can be riding up Ritchie Highway and they can see prostitutes."

Even worse, he said, any woman walking alone in the neighborhood can be propositioned by men cruising the streets.

In other business, the council also passed a bill that amended the procedural rules of the county Board of Appeals. The amended rules include a procedure for handling complaints against appeals board members.

Also last night, the council was expected to amend a zoning bill that would remove provisions pertaining to composting and mulching operations. Council members Virginia Clagett, D-West River, and Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, said they will introduce a separate bill that will deal with mulching and composting.

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