Accord near on boot camp runaways County police would be able to stop them

June 16, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The county and the District of Columbia are close to reaching an agreement that would give county police greater authority to stop juvenile and young-adult offenders who walk away from the district's boot camp program near Fort Meade.

The agreement would end the county's Board of Appeals challenge to the program, said assistant county attorney Sally Iliff. The county Friday received a postponement in the case, which was to have come before the board at a hearing June 20.

"The object of our negotiation is community safety," Iliff said.

The District of Columbia Superior Court has run the Urban Services Program since October on federal property bounded by Routes 198 and 32 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. It takes youths and young adults between the ages of 14 and 26 who have committed nonviolent crimes and are serving at least one year of supervised probation.

The 30-day residential program for 25 participants includes physical training, marching and drills, a wilderness experience, as well as training in anger management and goal setting. The boot camp is part of a yearlong program designed to steer the young offenders away from more serious crimes.

The program has the backing of surrounding communities that were pleased to see the court clean up and use abandoned buildings at the site, once known as Forest Haven.

But according to county attorneys, the boot camp violated zoning laws that called for residential use of the property. District officials argued the federally owned land was not subject to county zoning restrictions.

"There is certainly a concern about the ability of the county to control the use of that property," Iliff said.

The county and the District are still discussing the zoning questions, she said. Officials with the Superior Court could not be reached for comment Friday.

The arrangement also would give county police legal authority to stop boot camp runaways, Iliff said.

For example, she said, in the first week the boot camp was open, county officers stopped three youths who walked away, but they lacked the legal authority to hold them because the three had committed no crime and the officers did not have arrest warrants for them.

Under the agreement, if an offender leaves the facility, program workers can call a District of Columbia Superior Court judge, who would take a sworn affidavit by phone and could then issue an emergency order by fax that program workers could use to call Anne Arundel County police for help, Iliff said.

"It would at least give [police] some jurisdiction over these people," Iliff said. Right now, there is nothing."

Some community leaders remain supportive of the program, despite the conflict with the county.

"We are still in favor of it," said Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association. "I kind of hope that they do work things out because we are very pleased with the operation. "

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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