BALTIMORE - The strict anti-crime measures proposed by Philadelphia's likely next mayor, Michael Nutter, are also sparking a sharp political debate - 90 miles to our south.
The No. 2 lawmaker in the Baltimore City Council says he will introduce an anti-crime bill in the Maryland city next week that is closely modeled after Nutter's proposals, including the "stop-and-frisk" plan for high-crime neighborhoods.
"Desperate measures are needed when we're in desperate situations," the city council vice president, Robert W. Curran, told The Baltimore Sun. "What I'm trying to do is give the mayor additional tools."
Under 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 individuals in those zones to search for weapons and drugs.
However, the Baltimore proposal still isn't as aggressive as the anti-crime plan for Philadelphia proposed by Nutter, the winner of Tuesday's Democratic primary. Nutter's proposal also calls for curfews in crime-plagued neighborhoods.
Like Philadelphia, Baltimore is troubled by a soaring murder rate, with 108 homicides already this year, compared with 98 over the same period last year. Police and prosecutors there say they are facing the same "stop-snitching" culture that discourages victims and witnesses from cooperating with investigators trying to get criminals off the streets.
Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., a mayoral hopeful, said Curran's idea was an interesting concept but it raised questions about civil liberties.
"We have to make sure we're not declaring martial law," he said. *