Dial a dealer? AFTER WEEKS of inaction, city crews...

NOTES AND COMMENTS

May 16, 1999

Dial a dealer?

AFTER WEEKS of inaction, city crews have removed some of the illegal telephones from the infamous corner of Monroe and Fayette streets. Last Sunday, a Sun editorial questioned why -- despite the protests of neighbors who say drug dealers monopolize use of the phones -- there had been no action. Plenty of illegal phones, however, remain near other open-air drug markets.

Baltimoreans should express their outrage when the City Council hears the matter at 2: 30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Clearly the situation is out of hand when the city has licensed only 626 pay phones, and Public Works Director George S. Balog believes 1,000 others have been installed unlawfully.

Wired parents needed

IT IS DISTURBING that would-be sexual predators who use the Internet to take advantage of children are receiving sentences sometimes as light as home detention.

Culprits befriend the youngsters through Internet chat rooms and e-mail. The predators then lure the young Web surfers to such locations as shopping malls. The Sun's Michael James recently reported that a $10 million federal sting to catch these criminals has resulted in 282 convictions since 1994.Judges have sometimes described these cases as "victimless crimes," but U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia more correctly characterizes them as crimes of violence, and asks judges to treat them as such. The sting, known as Innocent Images, may have been the only thing that prevented children from becoming victims.

But a more important safeguard exists than the justice system. Parents of Internet-savvy young people should know what their children are doing in cyberspace. Judges and federal authorities can do only so much to keep predators away. Parental involvement remains the best protection.

What goes up

PAUL Cezanne's "Still Life With Curtain, Pitcher and Bowl of Fruit," sold this week for $60.5 million. The price was nearly twice auction house Sotheby's estimate and some $30 million more than the previous record for a Cezanne, set in 1993. It was the fourth-highest price ever for a work of art sold at auction.

Given the heights reached by the stock market these days, it's small wonder that the art market is benefiting from the increased disposable income the rise in stock prices has produced, as well as the seemingly endless consumer confidence in the future.

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