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Nuisance Baltimore County businesses could be shut down more easily under proposed law

John Lee
Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. Credit: John Lee

Baltimore County police would find it easier to shut down businesses with ties to crimes of violence, prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling under a bill being introduced in the County Council Monday.

Under current law, authorities need two criminal convictions on the premises to shut down a place.

The bill would allow authorities to close a business if police officers write it up for at least two public nuisance violations over two years.

Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said there have been cases where delays getting convictions led to serious crimes being committed.

“At the end of the day, we want these businesses to operate, Hyatt said. “We want them to be successful. But we want them to be good partners within the community and most of them are.”

The bill would allow the county administrative officer to overrule the police chief and let a place remain open, taking into account factors like the severity of the violations and past history.

A business targeted for closing also could appeal.

“This isn’t just the police chief saying ‘you’re not cooperating, we need to shut you down,’” Hyatt said. “This is a very established process.”

County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who is proposing the legislation wrote in a statement, “This proposal will provide law enforcement with a stronger tool to prevent properties from becoming havens for illegal activity.”

There will be a public hearing on the legislation March 29.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2