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Monday, October 24, 2011

City of Frederick Liquor Board Needed?

George Wenschhof

Recent local media reports of upset business owners along Carroll Creek in historic downtown Frederick caught my attention. When I met with city administrator Josh Russin a week ago, I asked him what was going on.

Russin indicated one owner of a downtown restaurant had complained about rowdy behavior by some along the Carroll Creek linear park and the mayor had agreed to meet with her. When the meeting took place, additional business owners attended and a discussion on harassment by youth, homeless and overall disruptive behavior took place focused on solutions.

In addition, to the regularly assigned police officers to the area, the city agreed to install some video cameras with prominent signage displaying their presence. Other ideas floated during my discussion with Russin and city public information coordinator Susan Harding included additional lighting and completing the flower box construction to further dissuade vagrants.

I offered up a thought pertaining to what appears to be a routine increase in rowdy behavior which corresponds to closing time for the local restaurants and taverns. Believing these local establishments also share the responsibility in the behavior in the neighborhood, I suggested contacting both The City of Frederick Police Chief Dine and the Frederick County Liquor Board.

My thoughts were, in addition to their regular duties; a patrol officer could take note of the patrons exiting an establishment at closing time and if their behavior was rowdy and unacceptable, the establishment reported to the Liquor Board.

The Liquor Board could then in turn, chose to further investigate, send a warning letter, or in the worst case scenario, suspend an operator license. The downtown establishments would be informed prior to implementing the program so they would have ample time to instruct staff on the policy.

Later, in a conversation with Chief Dine on another matter, I brought up this issue. He enthusiastically shared with me the comprehensive approach they are taking which has resulted in 115 arrests this year in a one block area from Carroll Creek.

In addition to working with the city to provide additional lighting and video cameras, the police department has worked with business and property owners to also increase lighting in the area.

The Frederick Police Department also meets regularly with the Neighborhood Advisory Council as well as the Frederick Downtown Partnership.

As homelessness is often associated with mental illness, a Mental Health Task Force was created. Working with other local nonprofits in the field, they have recommended the establishment of a year round homeless shelter.

Dine also indicated efforts are underway to create a downtown skate park, at no cost to the city, to provide a place for youth to skateboard.

The chief indicated they were already doing what I suggested in regard to working with the Frederick County Liquor Board and added they have a great working relationship with them. He agreed downtown restaurants working with police are helpful in combating these types of issues.

Interestingly, the Frederick County Liquor Board has only one inspector. Perhaps, the time has come for a City of Frederick Liquor Board. This would require action by the state, but makes sense as The City of Frederick has grown to become the second largest city in Maryland.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen would be wise to pursue this thought.

Stay Tuned....

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