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8.15.23 – WMAR – Westminster, Md.

To call or not to call 911; that could be a question business and home owners face if a new law goes through in Carroll County.

County officials say police are getting too many nuisance calls, and it’s draining their resources.

“We’re seeing disproportionate police services that have been utilized for a very small minority amount of businesses and residents in the community,” said Carroll County Commissioner Tom Gordon.

Nuisance calls are for complaints about things like excessive noise, disturbing the peace, or even theft.

The sheriff’s office hopes the new law motivates businesses to increase their security, so they don’t have to call 911 as often.

“We don’t want people to feel like they can’t call 911 because it may count against them as far as the ordinance goes,” said Major Dave Stem with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

But Alexis Duvall worries that’s exactly how her fellow employees will feel. She works at Rafael’s Restaurant in Westminster.

“We’re trying to get by, we’re trying to keep everything good as is. I don’t want us to be in between like, ‘hey are we gonna have to pay a fine, or are we gonna be safe at work?'” said Duvall.

The county says there would be exceptions: for example, if someone’s safety is at risk. But business owners we spoke to are worried that could be too subjective.

“What we’re trying to avoid is incidents where somebody just goes into the back, and they pick up some TVs or they pick up some merchandise, and they walk out the front of the store with no security protocols in place, nobody there to stop them, and then after the fact, the store calls 911,” said Major Stem. “There’s really no evidentiary value to us in order to solve the crime.”

The number of calls you’re allowed to make before getting fined depends on the type of property. But for the most part, it’s somewhere between five to 10 calls per year. The fines range from $500 to $1,000, depending on how many more calls you make after you reach the limit.

“We don’t expect that ever to happen. And if it does, it will be handled civilly, and if you want to appeal, you’d appeal to the district court like any other civil fine. It’s the stick in case the carrot doesn’t work. But we hope to never use it,” said Michael Stewart Jr., special counsel to the Carroll County State’s Attorney.

The county will hold a public hearing on August 31 where members of the community can weigh in. It will be during the Commissioners’ Open Session, which begins at 9:00 a.m.