BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Senate President Bill Ferguson has introduced a bill that would require strip clubs and bars on The Block in downtown Baltimore to close by 10 p.m.
Senate Bill 222, introduced by Ferguson on Jan. 12, specifically targets the stretch of strip clubs and bars in the 400 block of E. Baltimore Street downtown, with the text of the bill singling out the area bounded by E. Fayette Street to the north, Water Street to the south, Holliday and Commerce streets to the west, and Gay Street to the east.
The regulation applies to any business there with a Class A or Class BD-7 liquor license, and any establishment with an adult entertainment license.
A news release Thursday said the proposal was a joint effort by Ferguson, 46th District Dels. Luke Clippinger, Robbyn Lewis, and Brooke Lierman, City Councilman Eric Costello and the Baltimore Police Department, which has its headquarters adjacent to The Block.
In a statement, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said there were 831 calls for service to The Block and the surrounding area in 2021, including eight shootings with 11 victims, 15 robberies, 17 aggravated assaults and one suspicious death.
"Violence within and resulting from The Block in Baltimore City's central business district has drastically increased in recent months despite a robust and consistent deployment by the Baltimore City Police Department," he said, later adding, "Many of those were brazen incidents with police officers in the immediate vicinity."
The area has long been associated with adult entertainment, dating at least as far back as the mid-20th century, when Blaze Starr and other burlesque dancers performed in clubs along the street.
The recent uptick in criminal activity has led the BPD's Central District to deploy more officers to the area, "stretching critical resources to a breaking point," the coalition said in the joint release.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Ferguson said that, despite the high concentration of officers patrolling the street, the number and severity of violent crimes has only increased.
In other parts of the city where bars let out late at night, potentially leading to conflicts, an increased police presence has resulted in drops in crime, and neighbors and business owners have worked with city officials and police on solutions, Ferguson said.
He pointed to increased patrols from city and state police in Fells Point following a violent weekend last summer.
"And it worked, and it reduced the challenges," he said.
The business owners in the neighborhood also discussed traffic patterns and came up with ideas to create a safer space, he added.
That has not been the case on The Block, according to the senate president.
"What we've seen is a refusal by the business owners to take any accountability for what's happening," he said.
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