Tenant, gun bills signed into law

October 02, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

Baltimore landlords will no longer be able to throw an evicted tenant's belongings onto the sidewalk, and gun offenders will be required to register their address every six months under a pair of bills signed by Mayor Sheila Dixon.

The gun-offender registry, which was modeled after a similar program in New York, requires gun offenders to register their name, aliases, address and other information within 48 hours of a gun conviction or release from jail.

Dixon introduced the bill in July, and the legislation slid through the City Council with little opposition. The law, which takes effect in three months, has become part of a broader campaign by the administration to clamp down on gun offenders, who police say are more likely to commit other crimes.

"I want to make Baltimore the toughest place in the country on gun crimes," Dixon said at a ceremonial bill signing at City Hall yesterday. "People need to understand that if they have illegal guns they're going to do time, and we're going to keep an eye on them."

Police say that about half of suspects arrested on homicide charges have prior gun convictions. The registry will allow police to identify and focus on convicts if criminal activity spikes in a particular neighborhood, said Frederick H. Bealefeld III, the city's acting police chief.

"This is real action," he said. "This isn't for the benefit of cameras or newsprint. It's going to have real results on the streets of Baltimore."

Convicted gun offenders who fail to register - or who do not update their address when they move - would face a fine up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year.

"This is the first step in holding gun offenders accountable in a different way," said City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake. "If you commit a crime with a gun in Baltimore ... we will find you, we will punish you, and we will use you as an example."

The "eviction chattels" legislation, meanwhile, is intended to eliminate the practice of landlords dumping evicted tenants' belongings on city streets, which creates an eyesore and also requires the city to clean up the mess.

Under the new law, which went into effect yesterday, landlords are required to give a tenant two weeks' notice before the eviction. If the tenant's belongings are in the unit at the time of eviction, the landlord may take them to a landfill or donate them, but they may not be left on the streets. Landlords who violate the law would face a $1,000 fine.

"You will no longer see people's personal belongings thrown out onto the streets of Baltimore," said City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who sponsored the legislation. "This was a bill that took a lot of compromising at both ends."

As the mayor put her signature on legislation coming out of the City Council yesterday, several bills were introduced at last night's meeting. The administration introduced $4.4 million in additional spending from last year's growing surplus. The money will be used for a range of projects, including park improvements and renovations at police district buildings.

City Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who represents the 9th District in West Baltimore, introduced legislation that would require residents to keep dangerous animals in pens with a concrete base and a roof anchored to the frame.

The legislation comes after a 7-year-old girl was attacked by a pit bull in Southwest Baltimore.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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