Baltimore's streetwalkers would become street cleaners under a measure introduced last night in the City Council.
In an effort to reclaim residential neighborhoods from prostitutes, Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, proposed toughening the punishment they face to include community service such as sweeping streets. He has not drafted legislation yet.
His resolution accompanied another proposed new tactic: "Prostitution Free Zones."
Councilman Timothy D. Murphy introduced a bill that would prohibit loitering, lewdness and repeated attempts by prostitutes to stop cars at designated street corners.
Mr. Murphy, a 6th District Democrat who represents the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay areas in South Baltimore, said the law is needed to protect quiet neighborhoods from turning into red-light districts.
"The intent is to drive the prostitutes back to wherever they came from," he said. "What was once limited to the downtown area has spread to residential street corners."
Mr. Murphy patterned the proposed ordinance after the drug-free zones created by Baltimore and other cities in recent years. The proposal is widely supported by residents of Brooklyn, who, using video cameras and picket signs, have tried to chase prostitutes away from Patapsco Avenue.
The bill provides for fines of up to $1,000 and jail terms of up to a year. The current penalties for prostitution convictions are a $500 fine and jail terms of up to a year, but there are often related charges, and sentences vary widely.
For many prostitutes, the fine amounts to "the price of doing business," said council President Mary Pat Clarke, who supports both proposals to fight prostitution.
The council also tackled the thorny issue of regulating pawnshops last night.
Nearly 300 residents of Lauraville, Gardenville, Morgan Heights, Hamilton and surrounding Northeast Baltimore neighborhoods crowded into a church last Wednesday to protest the proposed opening of a pawnshop at Hamilton Avenue and Harford Road.
Their protest prompted Ms. Clarke and other council members to introduce three bills to establish standards for pawnshops.
One measure would require pawnshop operators to acquire a $100,000 bond instead of the $10,000 currently asked by the city. Another would prohibit pawnshops and gun stores in the Hamilton urban renewal area, and a third would require such shops to be approved as a "conditional use."
In the last four years, the number of pawnshops in Baltimore has more than doubled, from 16 to at least 40, Ms. Clarke said.
"This is an effort to begin to sort out the legitimate from the fly-by-night," she said. "It will help to weed out the proliferation of unscrupulous pawnbrokers."