O'Malley, Ruppersberger unveil crime initiatives

Photo identification by pawnshops proposed

February 15, 2000|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger announced yesterday a package of state legislative initiatives to cope with shared concerns of crime and neighborhood blight.

The package further cements the bonds between two of the area's best-known politicians. Typically, cities and counties press for their own priorities in Annapolis, but the two leaders say they want to launch a new era of cooperation.

"We're coming together to make a difference," Ruppersberger said at a news conference at Drumcastle Center on the city-county line along York Road.

Still, the initiatives touch on only some of the concerns that nag city and county residents. The package includes no mention of improving blighted housing, treating drug addicts or helping workers get to jobs more easily.

"This is a start. This is not the end," O'Malley said.

In addition to crackdowns on unserved arrest warrants, O'Malley and Ruppersberger are proposing that pawnbrokers digitally photograph their customers and the items they pawn, for quicker identification by police and victims of property crimes.

O'Malley and Ruppersberger say digital photographs downloaded daily to police departments would be superior to the current system of recording transactions on paper.

"It can take several days for the records to reach police departments, thus costing the police valuable time," Ruppersberger said. "Victims will be able to identify their property on their home computers."

But Richard D. Sussman, president of the Maryland Pawnbrokers Association, said it was unfair to single out his industry.

"Our customers have a right to expect some degree of privacy," Sussman said. To make available photographs of families who have fallen on hard times and are looking for quick cash "might be an embarrassing situation," he said.

Ruppersberger and O'Malley also are seeking to streamline the court process for land-use and code violations, cases that often tax community groups seeking to improve trouble spots in their neighborhoods.

The two leaders announced a final initiative that was immediately embraced by the governor's office. O'Malley and Ruppersberger are asking that the state transportation department allow sidewalk and landscaping projects designed to improve commercial neighborhoods to span the city-county border. Such projects are confined to either the city or the county.

"The governor would be very amenable to that," said Michael Morrill, a spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Sun staff writer Ivan Penn contributed to this article.

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