Highlandtown residents may soon go to the judges in their fight against neigborhood crime.
At a meeting last Tuesday in Highlandtown, about a dozen residents aired their issues with neighborhood crime with District 1 Councilman James Kraft, District 2 Councilman Brandon Scott, Officer Lynea Wiley of the Baltimore Police Department, Cheif Attorney of North Avenue District Court Patricia Daros, and Zone 1 Prosecutor Juana Brooks.
In response to residents saying that they see the same people convicted of crimes and then out on the street shortly thereafter, Kraft suggested putting more pressure on judges who give light sentences. Volunteer watchdogs, he said, could go to to District Court and watch the cases against the repeat offenders from the neighborhood.
“And at the end of the week, we put out a report that says, ‘Judge So-and-So, sitting in this courtroom, did this with our cases,” Kraft explained, noting that the tactic had worked for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, leading to stiffer penalties for driving while intoxicated.
Aug. 7 is National Night Out, a nationwide event for promoting neighborhood spirit and improving police-community relations. Kraft suggested that a booth could be set up that night in Highlandtown to recruit volunteers to watch and publicize the judging.
Resident complaints focused largely on prostitution, property crimes such as burglary and larceny from auto, and drug trafficking.
Daros noted that because prostitution is a misdemeanor, and in many cases the police cannot arrest a suspect for a misdemeanor unless that suspect is caught in the act. Furthermore, conviction is difficult, she said, unless an undercover officer is solicited by a prostitute.
“Short of that, it’s almost impossible for us to win a prostitution case,” said Daros.
She added that there is a pretrial program for prostitutes that is 68 percent successful in getting them off the streets.
“They get them drug treatment, health insurance—what they need so they don’t have to go out and prostitute,” she said.
“Johns,” or men who solicit prostitutes, get no options other than a conviction, Daros said.
by Erik Zygmont