Borough wants to get tougher on drugs, but ideas thwarted by current law

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NORTH YORK, Pa. - Community leaders say they want to do more to get tougher on drug crimes, but are limited in what they can do.

After Mayor Jerry Duncan proposed two ordinances last month to try to act tough on drugs, borough leaders were advised Tuesday not to pursue any new laws. One ordinance would have outlawed the sale of items that can be construed as drug paraphernalia at North York businesses, and the other would have declared the entire community as a drug-free zone, rather than just a 1000-foot area around schools.

“We've pretty much been told by [the borough solicitor] that there are state and federal laws now that already cover that, so that for the borough to try to make a law that supersedes that is illegal,” Richard Shank, the borough council’s vice president, said at a meeting Tuesday night.

Instead, council members vowed to add signage throughout the borough declaring it a drug-free zone, they said Tuesday.

The proposed drug-free zone ordinance came under scrutiny from local attorneys, especially considering a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in June that found some mandatory minimum sentences for drugs and other crimes unconstitutional.

“We as prosecutors no longer have that weapon in our arsenal against the war on drugs,” York County chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday said. “The penalty that someone can get based on dealing drugs is vastly different without a mandatory sentence.”

Aside from signage, borough leaders urged the public to call police if they see anything suspicious.

“This is where you live, and if you're not willing to fight for it, then maybe you should consider moving someplace else,” Duncan said.

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