Scalper arrest policy revised

City reviews action after N.J. man's 20-hour jail stay

Each case to be reviewed

July 15, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris changed the department's arrest policy for its Camden Yards ticket-scalping detail yesterday, after reviewing the case of a New Jersey man who was jailed 20 hours for attempting to sell tickets outside the stadium.

Norris said a police supervisor will now review each case at the ball park before alleged ticket-scalpers are taken to Central Booking and Intake Center for charging and a bail hearing before a court commissioner.

"As a result of this incident ... all arrests at these events will be verified and reviewed by a supervisor on the scene," he said.

The maximum penalty for reselling tickets within a mile of Oriole Park at Camden Yards is $50 - but no jail time.

At the heart of the change is the case of Brian J. Adams, 32, of Burlington, N.J., who was arrested June 10 after two undercover officers approached him outside Camden Yards as he was trying to sell, at a discount, four unused tickets to the Orioles-Philadelphia Phillies game.

As his pregnant wife looked on, the detectives arrested Adams, a property manager for the New Jersey Department of the Treasury and first-time visitor to Baltimore, for violating the city's 6-year-old "Scalp-Free Zone" around the Orioles stadium.

Despite Adams' protests that he did not know it was illegal to sell tickets for less than their face value, he was handcuffed and taken to central booking, where he stayed for nearly a day. He said he was crammed into a 4-by-8-foot cell with other detainees, including one who identified himself as a homicide suspect.

Eventually, he was brought before a court commissioner, who released Adams.

Adams was so angry that he wrote Mayor Martin O'Malley to complain about his treatment.

"I was shuttled like human cattle, strip-searched, humiliated and ignored," Adams wrote in a letter to the mayor dated June 15. "I begged for somebody to help me, call my wife or speak to a supervisor and I was dismissed as if I did not exist."

O'Malley called Adams to apologize after receiving the letter.

First Deputy Mayor Michael R. Enright wrote in a follow-up letter to Adams this week that the "detectives made a lawful arrest," but informed him that the police department was reviewing its procedures in such cases. Enright wrote that Norris had instructed Deputy Police Commissioner Barry W. Powell to review the ticket scalpers detail and recommend changes "that would preclude similar unfortunate incidents."

Norris' decision late yesterday was the outcome of the review.

Adams' experience seemed extraordinary even to the man whose agency oversees the booking and intake center.

"I understand his outrage," said Lamont W. Flanagan, commissioner of Pretrial Detention and Services. "As a visitor who came to enjoy the harbor and ... enjoy the game, he ended up with an arrest record.

"In New York, for something like that, they would have given him a citation," Flanagan said. "A fine would have been more appropriate."

City law defines "scalping" as selling tickets for more than their face value in order to make a profit, which has long been illegal. Conviction of the misdemeanor offense carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine.

In 1994, the City Council also made the resale of tickets within a mile of Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium illegal, after Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos asked for an aggressive crackdown. Violating that section of law is also a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of $50.

Adams, a self-described conservative who said he usually votes Republican, said the stay at the booking center opened his eyes.

"I changed my view on a lot of things, I can you tell that for sure," he said. "If you hear a news story about somebody being arrested, I usually believe the police at face value, but now there is a seed of doubt in my mind when I hear people complaining about police brutality and police having an agenda when they arrest somebody."

Adams said his stay at the booking center with other detainees caused him to fear Baltimore's tough inner city neighborhoods. But at the same time, he said, he began sympathizing with those people locked up with him - particularly the young men who were locked up on charges such as failing to obey an officer.

"The amount of arrests for this no-tolerance type of thing seemed a little excessive," Adams said.

The incident has prompted him to begin a word-of-mouth tourism boycott of Baltimore. He said he wants to let tourists know that if they are arrested in the city on a minor offense, they face an experience that will "haunt" them "for the rest of their lives."

While city officials defend the practice of cracking down on all offenses, they agree the court and booking system needs reforming, to speed up the process of weeding out minor crimes.

A year from now, the city's Community Court is expected to be open, designed to expedite minor cases such as ticket-scalping and shoplifting, reserving the jail system for more serious offenders.

Flanagan said that of the 90,000 people processed at Central Booking last year, only 13 percent were felons. Fifty-two percent were released by the court commissioner on their own recognizance, after an average stay of 13 hours..

Adams is to return to Baltimore on July 27 for his scheduled court date.

"I don't even want to come back," he said.

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