Shop owners want crackdown against loiterers

June 30, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Angered by loiterers who they say drink alcohol in front of shop windows and on the Patapsco River bridge, merchants in historic Ellicott City are calling for aggressive action against loitering and public drunkenness.

"We've found people passed out on Frederick Road," said Ed Williams, president of the Ellicott City Business Association. "It's unsightly. It's an offense to visitors and residents."

On June 20, Mr. Williams held a meeting in which he and other merchants asked that police from Howard and nearby Baltimore counties coordinate their efforts when arresting those who loiter and drink alcohol in public.

The meeting was attended by shop owners, Baltimore County police representatives and Howard County Councilman Darrel Drown.

"We're trying to look at ways to reduce loitering and aggressive behavior," Mr. Drown said. "We're trying to do a concerted effort to make sure Ellicott City is a safe place to go to."

Police officers have responded quickly since the meeting.

In addition to the daily foot patrols that already take place in the historic district, officers will be added "to give some additional attention to Main Street," said Capt. Wayne Livesay.

Also, a police officer with the department's Community Oriented Policing Project is working on ways to crack down on public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

From June 19 to Monday, Howard County police arrested three people on charges of public drunkenness, Captain Livesay said.

And last week, police officers from Howard and Baltimore counties agreed to coordinate their efforts to arrest loiterers and those found drinking in public.

Merchants said a group of about eight people regularly gather on the bridge between Oella, in Baltimore County, and the historic district, in Howard County. They say that the group intimidates people who use the span to reach a new 80-space parking lot in Baltimore County.

Although shop owners said they did not fear that the loiterers would attack passers-by, some said shoppers feel threatened and intimidated by the loiterers.

Their presence "definitely scares my customers," said shop owner Deborah Smith, of Moon Star Unique vintage clothing and jewelry store, who has taken to escorting her clients to their cars. "A lot of them are cute young girls. They're scared to go to their cars."

Robert Costella, who operates the E.C. Does It Cafe on Main Street, said loiterers have panhandled customers in his restaurant and have been known to behave offensively in public.

But other merchants said they haven't had trouble and have seen the problem lessen in the past decade.

"It's gotten a lot better over the years," said merchant Nancy Gibson, co-owner of the Forget-Me-Not-Factory gift store, who said she used to find men sleeping under her shop windows. Now, "they don't hang out in front of my store."

And despite the recent police efforts, "it's more than a legal problem, it's a social difficulty," said Mr. Williams.

An Ellicott City man, who was leaning on a railing overlooking the Patapsco River in front of the B&O Railroad Museum yesterday, denied that there is a problem with drinking and loitering in the area.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said that he comes to the area to visit with friends. He complained about hostility from the police. "I've seen cops harassing people on the bridge," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.