Pubdate: Tue, 13 Apr 2004
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2004 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: O'Ryan Johnson


LAWRENCE -- A proposed law backed by 25 lawmakers would create 1,000-foot
drug-free zones around after-school youth programs, and give drug dealers an
automatic 21/2 years in prison if they operate near programs like the YMCA.
State Reps. Barry R. Finegold, D-Andover, and William Lantigua, I-Lawrence,
announced the bill yesterday at the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club. Club
director Markus Fischer said 500 children per day pass through their center
at 130 Water St., and are taught the dangers of drug use, but the club
cannot protect them when they leave.

"We have a strict no-drug policy here," he said. "But once they leave our
premises, drugs have been an issue. This is going to be an effective way of
telling drug dealers to keep away."

Finegold's bill would amend a law that gives drug dealers a mandatory 21/2
years for dealing within 1,000 feet of a school, adding after-school
programs to that law. There are a number of such programs in the city
including the YMCA, Hoops for Hope, Adelante Youth Center, Hope Street, and
the Boys and Girls Club. Police Chief John Romero supported Finegold's
amendment, saying that Water Street is a problem area in a city where drug
crimes are the No. 1 public safety threat. He said the existing law that
gives stiffer sentences to drug dealers caught in school zones helps law
enforcement by taking dealers off the street for longer stretches.

Finegold said none of the bills he's filed in the past has enjoyed this
amount of support from fellow lawmakers.

"Youth centers are places that give young people hope and structure in their
lives," he said. "We as elected officials need to do everything in our power
to make sure youth centers stay that way. ... We want to send a strong
message to drug dealers: Stay away."
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