Security tightened for Easter events at Inner Harbor Officials seek to prevent rowdiness by teens

April 05, 1996|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Seeking to prevent rowdiness at the traditional teen-age gathering at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore officials have arranged for an Easter festival with tight security.

The city has organized a daylong celebration by the harbor Sunday, including jazz concerts and street performers, that will be closely monitored by as many as 100 police officers.

"We want the whole day to begin and end on a fine note," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday. "We're going to have a whole Sunday of family entertainment -- and we're also going to have a fairly massive display of police at the Inner Harbor."

For the past three years, the large crowds of young people who converge at the harbor on Easter prompted widespread controversy.

Some visitors, shop owners and callers to radio talk shows complained each year about being alarmed by the teen-agers, whom they described as unruly and rude. Others said the youths were just strolling along the waterfront and showing off their spring finery.

Mr. Schmoke set up jazz concerts in an attempt to ease tensions over the teen-age ritual after an unruly crowd led to the early closing of Harborplace on Easter Sunday 1993.

The Rouse Co. ordered the pavilions closed that day after about 4,000 young people gathered by the waterfront. Although police reported no fighting or crime, some people expressed fear and discomfort with the size of the crowd and the fact that it was largely black, and complained about a lack of security.

Last year's jazz festival ended on a sour note in the evening when about two dozen youths banded together and raced through the crowd. The commotion sent people scattering off the promenade and prompted Harborplace to lock the pavilion doors.

Downtown business leaders, hoteliers and the Schmoke administration worked out a new strategy this spring.

More than 100 police officers, three times as many as last year, have been assigned to the harbor. And the festival, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, is designed to be more family-oriented, with a strolling Easter bunny and tours of a ship from the Netherlands.

"There are no plans to move the kids. But the officers who will be on hand will watch carefully for signs of trouble," said police spokesman Sam Ringgold. "If there are individuals who are attempting to start trouble, they could be asked to leave."

While emphasizing the heightened security, Mr. Schmoke said he does not want the city's youths to get the impression that they are not welcome at the harbor.

"We want them to have a good time," he said. "We do this not to intimidate anybody, not to dampen the enthusiasm, but for the last couple of years, right at the end, we had young people start to run around and cause problems, and it has just ruined the atmosphere."

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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