City councilman seeks evaluation of drug-free zones


Fed up with illegal drug markets in his district, a West Baltimore councilman called on city police and state prosecutors yesterday to determine whether "drug-free zones" are working.

Established in 1989 during the "just say no to drugs" movement, the law, which allows police to search and arrest loiterers, has been questioned on constitutional grounds by judges and prosecutors.

Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. called for the study of the law while standing in a drug-free zone established at Pennsylvania and North avenues.

"These are the hottest corners in the city," said Mitchell. "The joke in my area is that it's a drug-free zone -- you get free drugs."

The City Council established 50 drug-free zones in 1989 and added 10 in 1994. Although few offenders are prosecuted under the law, police say the zones have been effective as a tool to prevent drug sales.

Some Baltimore street corners, including Pennsylvania and North avenues, attract hundreds of drug buyers at a time. Yesterday, the police radio crackled with complaints of illegal drug markets open for business.

Mitchell, a high school teacher, wants the study to determine whether the council can strengthen the law.

"It will allow [the] council to make needed changes in the law and to explore new approaches to the problem of drug crime," Mitchell said. "How effective are these drug-free zones?"

Pub Date: 5/30/98

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