New law could close sleazy motels

April 12, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County's crackdown on prostitution along Pulaski Highway got a boost last week with enactment of a padlock law that eventually could put sleazy motels out of business.

The law, patterned after one used by Baltimore police for five years, allows the county police chief to close motels catering to prostitutes after two convictions for prostitution on the premises within two years. The owner or operator will have the right to an administrative hearing.

County Executive Roger B. Hayden signed the measure Friday after County Council passage April 4. The law takes effect May 30.

Although aimed primarily at the illicit sex trade, the law also could be used to require padlocking of homes or businesses used by drug dealers, fences and gamblers.

Passage of the law comes just as police seem to have forced the sex trade off Pulaski Highway, at least temporarily. County police first drove the prostitutes out with arrests and then locked up 77 men for soliciting prostitutes late last month along the section of U.S. 40 east of the city line in the Rosedale area.

Baltimore police arrested 22 men on solicitation charges during one weekend in March on the city's side of the highway.

Daryl Buhrman, president of the Rosedale Community Association, told County Council members that area merchants have reported a "drastic change" since the crackdown began.

Mr. Buhrman said he welcomes the law even though the situation has improved along the highway.

Capt. Jeffrey M. Caslin, commander of the White Marsh Precinct, which includes Rosedale, said the county law is similar to one used extensively by police in New York City.

The council approved one change in the law that was suggested by the county's law office. That change has the county's administrative officer or some designated by that official preside over hearings instead of the police chief.

Under the law, the police chief has the power to order the "discontinuance of the public nuisance" or "the closing of the premises." It includes apartments, private homes or businesses. Before an order is enforced, a hearing must be held.

With the new law, as amended, the final decision will be made by the administrative officer or an official he designates as a hearing officer.

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