- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP) — A city council leader, alarmed by Baltimore’s rising homicide rate, wants to give the mayor the power to put troubled neighborhoods under police lockdown.

“Desperate measures are needed when we’re in desperate situations,” City Council Vice President Robert W. Curran, a Democrat, told the Baltimore Sun. He said he would introduce the legislation this week.

Under Mr. Curran’s plan, the mayor could declare “public safety act zones,” which would allow police to close liquor stores and bars, limit the number of people on city sidewalks and halt traffic during two-week intervals.

Police would be encouraged to aggressively stop and frisk persons in those zones to search for weapons and drugs.

Baltimore has 108 homicides as of last week, compared with 98 over the same period last year. Police and prosecutors also are facing a “stop snitching” culture that discourages victims and witnesses from cooperating with investigators trying to get criminals off the streets.

Council member Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., Democrat and mayoral hopeful, said Mr. Curran’s idea was interesting but said it raises questions about civil liberties.

“We have to make sure we’re not declaring martial law,” he said.

Mayor Sheila Dixon, a Democrat, had a lukewarm response after meeting last week with Mr. Curran, but she said she might support the idea with some changes.

“We’re already in those communities,” Mrs. Dixon said. “We’re bringing the resources and services to the communities. I want him to build on what we’re attempting to do.”

Mr. Curran said he modeled his plan after one advocated by Michael Nutter, who recently won the Democratic nomination for mayor of Philadelphia. Mr. Nutter has called for declarations of a “state of emergency” in high-crime neighborhoods, where police would conduct aggressive stop-and-frisk searches and impose curfews.

Mr. Curran, who also sponsored Baltimore’s recently passed smoking ban, said he expects opposition.

“Some of the critics of the smoking ban were telling me, ‘If you want to save lives in Baltimore, do something about the murder rate, do something about the gun violence,’ ” he said. “I’m trying to stop the murders, to reduce the mortality rate from gun violence in this town.”

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