Baltimore City Council called last night for tougher crime-fighting measures and better fire protection in the wake of four fire deaths and what some members called more brazen illegal drug dealing on the streets.
The council unanimously adopted a resolution asking Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to implement a zero-tolerance crime-fighting strategy in dealing with illegal drugs in the city. Over the last two years, Councilman Martin O'Malley and Council President Lawrence A. Bell III have been asking the administration to adopt the plan, credited for drastically reducing crime in many American cities.
But for the first time, Bell and O'Malley gained unanimous support from council colleagues, including allies of Schmoke and Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier. Schmoke and Frazier have opposed zero-tolerance, which requires police to crack down on minor offenses in order to keep repeat criminals from committing more serious crimes.
The strategy would require up to 600 more officers and an expansion of the court system, Frazier said. But members usually supportive of the commissioner said last night that chronic killing and open drug dealing must be more aggressively attacked.
"It's getting out of hand," said Councilman Nicholas D'Adamo, Frazier's most vocal council supporter. "I'm traveling in my district and I'm being stopped on every corner by someone whistling at me to buy drugs."
Likewise, council members are upset about fire protection in their districts. The council had a moment of silence for four West Baltimore fire victims: Lilly Mae Brown, 62, who died Saturday in a blaze in the 1000 block of N. Payson St. Last week, a mother and two children -- Rainey Jefferson, 35, Rannie Kellam, 15, and Brandon Jefferson, 11 -- died in a rowhouse fire at 315 N. Arlington Ave.
Council Vice President Agnes Welch requested that fire officials meet with the council soon to discuss fire protection.
The department recently began closing stations up to 14 hours at a time after it spent half its yearly overtime budget in just two months. Closings began in August and affect two stations a day.
"I am very concerned that they are not protecting the safety of our citizens and their property," Welch said.
Bell scheduled a hearing on crime for Oct. 23. A hearing on fire protection has not been scheduled.
Pub Date: 10/14/98