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Police launch crackdown on illegally posted fliers


An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun for Anne Arundel County stated incorrectly the penalty for tacking leaflets on utility poles or street fixtures or stuffing them under car windshield wipers in Annapolis. The correct penalty, released yesterday by the city police department, is a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

The Sun regrets the error.

There's a new kind of perpetrator in Annapolis -- the kind that advertises for cook-offs, yard sales and even church mixers.

They're leafleteers. And Annapolis city police don't like them. Yesterday, the department announced it would start enforcing old rules on its books and slap anyone who puts pamphlets on utility poles, street fixtures or car windshields with a $10 fine. Repeat offenders would be fined $25.

"It just makes the town look trashy," Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said. "The advertisements don't belong there. They're out of order."

Police say violations of Statute 11.36.010 have become too much of a habit in Annapolis. Though police hadn't written any tickets as of yesterday, the local radio station, WANN-AM 1190, broadcast warnings to staple-gun-toting offenders.

"Before, we wouldn't bother people," said city police spokesman Maj. Norman Randall. "But not anymore."

Keeping city streets clean has always been a priority in the state's capital. For example, a pet that uses a street for a bathroom can leave its owner with a $50 ticket. And there are plenty of regulations against littering, neon signs and tacky flowerpots in the historic district.

Some residents, however, say the new police action is just one more example of the city's devotion to nitpicking rules.

"I really think there are more important things to worry about," said Loni Moyer, 26, a manager of The Moon restaurant on Prince George Street. "We've got drugs and crime and homeless people. What is the city doing about that?"

Ms. Moyer said musicians distribute most of the pamphlets to drum up crowds at local bars. On The Moon's premises are leaflets advertising shows by Big Pants McDowell and Techno Squid Eats Parliament. Those leaflets are legal, but another band advertised apparently illegally on a city fence nearby.

Mr. Hopkins contends people make a mess when they leaflet. The mayor said that when he was a boy in Annapolis in the 1930s, a local grocery store paid him 25 cents to pass out pamphlets on the day's specials. He said he never dropped one.

"They would say, 'Now you didn't toss these down the storm drains, did you?' And I would say, 'No, sir,' " he said. "I did it as a kid and I did it the right way. I would just . . . go door-to-door."

There are some who can still advertise on the street without violating the law. At the historic Maryland Inn on Main Street, for example, the scripted menus are framed in a wood and glass case outside the restaurant.

On a recent stroll through downtown Annapolis, there were plenty of notices in storefront windows and even some on the street. The biggest advertiser appeared to be the city. This is especially true during a yearlong reconstruction of Main Street.

The city recently placed a wooden easel on Main Street coaxing people to "Take a flyer" from an inch-thick stack of pamphlets about a 17th-century archaeological dig on the thoroughfare. Nearby, signs adorn a chain-link construction fence and urge shoppers to patronize local stores during the project.

Some residents in the historic district say the amount of multicolored pamphlet litter is rising by the week. Other residents are thrilled to hear the law finally is going to be enforced.

"I live on King George Street, and quite frankly people just throw these posters on the ground, and those of us who care about what the city looks like have to go around and pick them up," downtown resident Mike Langrehr said.

But even Mr. Langrehr doesn't think the city needs to be too draconian in its approach.

"What if someone puts up a sign that says, 'I lost my cat. Has anybody seen it?' and they left it up for a couple of days?" he wondered. "I guess I don't have a real problem with that."

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