Police arrest dozens at rave

Officers seize drugs, charge nearly 50 at Arundel dance party

Ecstasy tablets recovered

April 16, 2001|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Nearly 50 young people were arrested on drug charges at a daylong "rave" dance Saturday at Anne Arundel County Fair Grounds, police said yesterday.

Raves are large dance parties that usually are held in warehouses or large outdoor locations. Drug use is often rampant at such events, which feature laser lights and electronic "techno" dance music, authorities say.

Anne Arundel County Police Sgt. Edward P. Bergin said Saturday's rave - sponsored by Vinyl Lab Productions of Virginia - attracted an estimated 2,500 revelers.

"We received word of it and set up an operation out there," Bergin said. "We do know that drug use is associated with these raves."

County and state police reported that 47 arrests were made, all involving possession or distribution of drugs or drug paraphernalia. Most arrests were at the fairgrounds in Crownsville but a few party-goers were arrested in traffic stops as they left the event.

Most of those arrested were young adults from age 18 to the early 20s, Bergin said. Seven were juveniles, ages 16 and 17, he said.

"Ecstasy was the primary drug, but there was also LSD, ketamine [an animal tranquilizer] and marijuana," Bergin said. "We recovered almost 400 tablets of Ecstasy valued at over $11,000."

Ecstasy - also known as MDMA - is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that has stimulant and hallucinogenic properties, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Researchers say its use can cause brain damage and other physical and psychological problems.

County police spokesman Lt. Joseph E. Jordan said police focused attention on the event because of other instances around the country in which rave parties have resulted in drug overdoses, violence and injuries to revelers.

Bergin said "numerous" uniformed and plainclothes officers were assigned to work the rave and that a temporary command center was set up in Crownsville to process those who were arrested. He declined to say how many officers were assigned to the event.

The rave was held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., outdoors and in one building on the grounds. Those attending paid from $20 to $30 for tickets, Bergin said.

The promoters of the event, called the East Coast Electronic Dance Music Festival, did not respond to a telephone message left at their office yesterday about Saturday's arrests.

The fairground is owned by the state but is leased to a nonprofit group - Anne Arundel County Fair Inc. - that manages the property. The group rents out the property for events such as tractor pulls, circuses and rodeos. The money from the rentals is used to maintain the property.

Officials with the nonprofit group defended yesterday their decision to allow the property to be rented for a rave - a term they only recently learned.

Fay Baase, who serves on the nonprofit group's rental committee, said promoters described the event as an "electronic music festival." She said they were professional in their business dealings in arranging for the rental contract.

"I felt they were trying to do a nice event for children to dance at," said Baase, 65, who is immediate past president of the nonprofit group. "We didn't have any idea there might be problems until law enforcement kept calling to bug us."

Despite Saturday's arrests, Baase said that she would have no objection to renting the fairgrounds for similar dance events in the future.

"It depends on what they come to us with," she said. "Just because some people don't like it doesn't mean that it's a wrong event. ... I didn't have a problem with the event."

Baase said she attended part of the event Saturday and just saw young people who appeared to be enjoying themselves, although she said the music was too loud for her tastes. "The ones I saw were very nice and polite," she said.

Diana Wilson, the nonprofit group's current president, said drug problems can occur anywhere.

Although distressing, she said, it is to be expected that people will be arrested if they are caught committing crimes.

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