Prince George's Police crack down on loitering, a 'gateway crime'

Residents and business owners in Prince George's County are fed up with what police call a "gateway crime."

To Chris Carter, loitering in front of his store isn't just a nuisance; it's a threat to his business.

"Mostly in the summer is when you see people hanging out. It's not a pleasant sight. And when you have customers that want to come into your business, it's not a sight that you want so we've been good about asking people to move along," Carter said.

He's not alone

In 2011, Prince George's County Police responded to nearly 12,000 calls related to loitering up from 9,000 in 2010.

"It's a nuisance crime, and it's also a gateway crime. Often times people who are loitering become themselves a victim of a crime or take part in a crime of opportunity," said Lt. William Alexander.

By 2013, the consequences will be costly. Under a new law, police will have the authority to issue a written citation for the first offense. A second offense will come with a $500 fine, and the third offense will warrant a $1,000 penalty.

Alexander added, "That will hopefully give the police some more teeth and an additional tool to help deter loitering in the first place."

Police say it will also help solve crime.

In 2011, calls about loitering resulted in hundreds of arrests for outstanding warrants.

The new laws don't take effect until January.

Police say they don't expect any increase in loitering complaints. The hope is that as the public becomes aware of just how strict those laws are the number of loitering calls will decrease.