City Council bill seeks to limit spread of illegal pay phones

Committee sets hearing on the problem today

May 19, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Responding to concerns raised about illegal pay phones in Baltimore, a member of the City Council this week introduced a bill that would prohibit installation of the phones without a permit.

Under the legislation, sponsored by Councilwoman Helen Holton, anyone illegally installing a pay phone would face a civil fine of up to $500.

In addition, the names of those who violate the law would be published in local media.

"You might compare this to zero tolerance on pay phones," Holton said. "Our communities don't deserve to have illegal pay phones that breed illegal activity."

Authorities say drug dealers use the illegal pay phones to communicate.

Holton's bill, introduced at Monday's council meeting, comes as a council committee holds a hearing on the matter at 2: 30 p.m. today.

Councilman Martin O'Malley of the 3rd District called for the session of the council's Legislative Investigations Committee in reaction to an editorial published in The Sun that criticized the city for allowing the phones.

About 626 pay phones in Baltimore operate legally with permits. Another 1,000 are believed to exist illegally, many in high-crime areas.

"My interest is in cleaning up the problem," said Holton of the 5th District. "It's time to bring it to a halt."

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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