Loitering law expanded to 3 more areas

Robinwood, 2 homes seek designation to fight drug trade

ACLU has filed suit

Amendment approved to clarify, refine the ordinance

March 14, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

The Annapolis city council designated three more areas as "drug-loitering free" zones last night and approved an ordinance amending the anti-loitering law, which is being challenged in court.

Robinwood, one of the city's 10 public housing complexes, the area within 500 feet of 24 Pleasant St. and the area within 500 feet of 1003 Monroe St. join Newtowne Twenty as "drug-loitering free zones."

Newtowne Twenty was granted the designation Feb. 14. Within a week, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Maryland filed a lawsuit in Anne Arundel Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of the anti-loitering law, which narrowly passed in October.

The anti-loitering law allows Annapolis neighborhoods to apply for "drug-loitering-free zone" status. If the criteria of having three or more drug-related arrests in the area within a 24-month period is met and the designation is granted, the ordinance gives police wider discretion to act against loiterers.

The ordinance bars known drug offenders -- those convicted of drug possession, distribution or use in the past seven years -- from loitering in designated areas. Police officers can also move along people they suspect are dealing drugs within the areas.

The designation remains in force for two years and can be renewed.

The ACLU filed the suit against the city and police department on behalf of the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and three residents who counsel youths, the homeless and drug users. Opponents of the law say it is too vague and will give police too much power.

The city has until Friday to respond, said Dwight Sullivan, chief council for the ACLU of Maryland.

The ordinance approved last night amends the law by clarifying that people are in violation of the "drug-loitering free zone" after they disobey a police officer's order to move on.

The ordinance further defines drug-related activity.

The Robinwood neighborhood, on Tyler Avenue off Forest Drive, has 149 units and about 530 residents. The tenant council applied for the designation in December.

Both 24 Pleasant St. and 1003 Monroe St. are private homes. Residents at both homes applied for the designation in November.

The council was scheduled to introduce a resolution that would give the city's Department of Public Works power to inspect "all property managed by the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis." The Housing Authority, which does the inspections now, would be charged for the city inspections.

But, P. Holden Croslan, executive director of the housing authority, said the agency is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct inspections. Funding two inspections would drain the authority's resources, she said.

On average, Croslan said, a housing inspection costs $50. More than 1,100 units are under the authority's management.

The resolution, sponsored by the mayor and all eight alderman, comes as a result of recent efforts by community activists to improve conditions at the city's public housing developments.

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