3 measures signed by Schmoke address truancy, ammunition, illegal pay phones

Law prohibiting sale of bullets to minors aims to stem violence

July 02, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

To curb gun violence among Baltimore youth, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced yesterday that he had signed into law a bill that prohibits the sale or transfer of ammunition to minors.

A conviction under the law carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

The law, which Schmoke hopes will trim the city's 300 annual murders, "offers another tool to combat gun violence and try to avoid tragedies such as the one we saw in Colorado," the mayor said during his weekly news conference. "It's an attempt to try to protect young people and keep them safe in our community."

The ammunition bill was one of three bills Schmoke signed this week to fight crime and illegal behavior by youth.

He signed legislation that would allow a judge to sentence parents of truant children to not more than 60 days of community service instead of a fine. The legislation was designed to help parents who could not afford to pay the fines, which range from $50 to $300 for each truant offense.

Schmoke also signed a bill that imposes fines on telephone operators who illegally post pay phones in Baltimore.

Telephone companies without permits for outdoor pay phones could face a civil fine of $500 a day for operating an illegal pay phone on public property. A criminal conviction for posting an illegal pay phone carries a fine of $1,000 a day for each illegal phone on pub- lic property, under new penalties that go into effect today.

The law officially took effect yesterday, but the city agreed to give telephone operators a one-day grace period to get permits before imposing penalties.

"It's been a real problem," Schmoke said during his weekly news conference. "There's a process for placing these phones."

Problems with illegal pay phones came to light in May in a Sun editorial, which said that more than 1,000 pay phones in the city operate without permits.

Some telephone companies receive a telephone number from the state Public Service Commission to operate the pay phones and connect the lines themselves. If the pay phone is set up on public property, the city requires the phone company to receive a permit to operate it.

Of the more than 1,600 pay phones in Baltimore, about 626 operate legally with permits.

Schmoke said he will not sign a second pay phone bill that would have increased regulation while toughening the permit process for outdoor telephones. Schmoke said the bill had become overly complicated because of amendments by the city council.

In addition, Schmoke said he did not want a law that made it difficult for low-income residents who could not afford their own telephones to have access to the pay phones. Schmoke said telephone companies complained to him that the proposed legislation was overly restrictive and could make it difficult for them to set up the phones in some neighborhoods.

Schmoke said that he believed the city needed some regulation of pay phones, so he signed the illegal phone measure.

City Councilwoman Helen Holton, who sponsored the pay phone bill that Schmoke signed into law, said the legislation is designed to protect communities from the illegal activity.

"This bill is not anti-business," Holton said. "This is an effort to support our neighborhoods. It puts the penalty where it belongs, with these independent phone operators."

Pub Date: 7/02/99

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