By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – City officials say nearly 20 years after the Criminal Justice Center opened, they’re still stymied by a stinking problem: people puffing on cigarettes in the building’s stairwells in defiance of Philadelphia’s smoking ban.

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The Criminal Justice Center, which opened in 1994, has 17 stories of stairwells and for years smokers have been lighting up there between hearings and trials.

“Despite previous efforts and public postings and notices, we acknowledge that the problem continues,” says Court Spokesman Frank Keel.

So, he says the First Judicial District, which runs the courts, along with the police department and the department of Licenses and Inspections, will meet soon on the problem.

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“We’re going to be convening a group of all those folks, plus the tenants in the building, and other city officials in the next couple of weeks to try to brainstorm a solution.”

Keel says they’re looking for a long-term solution. “We’re not sure who the offenders are, whether it’s a mixture of city workers and just the thousands of people who come in and out of that building on a daily basis. And we’re not looking to point fingers of blames.  We’re looking to find a solution, and hope to have that in the next couple of weeks.”

And in the midst of the city’s ongoing cash crisis, Keel says solutions like surveillance cameras or increased patrols of the stairwells are likely to be too costly.

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