Fells Point patrol nets 50 arrests

July 03, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

Undercover Baltimore police officers saturated the Fells Point tourist area Friday night and early yesterday on the second weekend in a row and charged more than 50 people with unruly behavior.

Sweeping into the waterfront community of trendy bars, restored 19th-century rowhouses and 4,000 residents, officers continued their new "nobody gets a break" policy, strictly enforcing the laws on alcohol, littering and disorderly conduct.

Answering complaints from many of the people arrested or summoned to court, Officer David Brown said even minor offenses such as drinking alcohol and urinating in public contribute to the city's decay.

"That's urban blight," Officer Brown said. "The thing that the people we arrest say is that the city is a hole. It's a hole because everyone drops something in it."

Before the plainclothes officers fanned out into the packed bar area near Broadway Market, Sgt. Ron Dorsey said public urination has been a constant complaint. Violators, the sergeant said, "are ruthlessly flagrant about it. If it's in the middle of the street, they will do it. And they don't care who is watching."

As officers began their crackdown shortly after 9 p.m., angry suspects and their companions said they could not understand why they were targets in a city riddled with drugs, shootings and murders.

"Why don't you guys go to the east side or something?" Brenda Schryer, 25, told Officer Brown and his partner, Officer David Childs.

Ms. Schryer was in a group of Johns Hopkins University students, one of whom was charged with carrying an open can of beer on the street. "Tell [Mayor Kurt L.] Schmoke to give us students a break and focus on drug dealers," she said.

"Now you don't like city police," Officer Brown replied.

"No, I don't like city police," said Ms. Schryer, who lives near Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"You weren't there when my house was robbed. You weren't there when I was robbed at gunpoint. But you were here when I was walking down the street on a Friday night."

Police said they charged 30 people with urinating in public and 22 with having open containers of alcohol, all in citations -- summonses to court -- except for three people who were jailed. A person given a citation must appear in court or face arrest.

In addition, two people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges, and two were arrested and charged with drunken driving.

Two of the seven who were jailed were released on their own recognizance later yesterday.

Last weekend, when city police began their summerlong Fells Point project, 37 people were charged. So many were arrested that the cell block at the Southeastern District station was filled to capacity.

Fells Point residents have complained to police about unruly bar patrons who vandalize cars and homes, urinate on people's front doors and walk down the street drinking alcohol.

Officers Brown and Childs alternated between driving the cramped streets and alleys and walking through the crowds on the streets where most of the bars are located.

About 2:30 a.m. yesterday, the officers arrested a 21-year-old man they said placed a paper plate containing two slices of pizza on top of their unmarked police car on Thames Street and refused to remove it. He was jailed and charged with disorderly conduct.

Minutes after the officers arrived in Fells Point, they spotted Tim Koenig, 27, near where Block, Caroline and Thames streets meet. The Bel Air resident and Hopkins student was a companion of Ms. Schryer.

"What are you drinking, sir?" asked Officer Brown, as he got out of the gray unmarked car. He said he saw the man throw a can of beer into some weeds.

"I was throwing it away," Mr. Koenig said. "I was getting rid of it . . . we didn't want it in the car." He was charged with having an open alcohol container on the street.

During the night, Officers Brown and Childs toured several streets where they said cars are routinely broken into. They broke up a fight near Broadway Market and persuaded a medical student from Japan to sign a citation charging her with urinating in public so she wouldn't be arrested and jailed.

The officers met two women from Sweden who were trying to use an international identification card to get into a bar, helped a Quebec tourist find a hotel and cited a Russian immigrant for drinking in public.

In one case, six plainclothes officers were arresting a man charged with drinking on the waterfront off Dock Street when a man began urinating 20 feet away.

On another stop, Officer Brown asked a man one question

before writing up a citation. "Do you urinate in public when you are at home in Silver Spring?" he asked.

"I just figured I was in a back alley," the man answered. "I figured I could. I didn't think anyone was watching."

Some people, like Richard Anderson, 23, were happy with the stepped-up enforcement, even though his companion was cited for drinking alcohol in public. "This is great," said Mr. Anderson, who lives in Fells Point. "I'll tell my landlord, and she'll love it."

Ron Furman, owner of Max's, a bar on Broadway in the heart of Fells Point, said it is "less than 1 percent of the people who cause problems for the rest of us." He agreed that unruly patrons should be removed, but cautioned that overkill could hurt businesses and drive visitors away.

"Fells Point has always been an entertainment district," he said. "Baltimore doesn't have an entertainment district. Let's not kill the one we have."

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