Security net hauls in three crabbers

Three people wading in Colgate Creek accused of criminal trespass

July 13, 2005|By William Wan | William Wan,SUN STAFF

Three Dundalk residents wading near the Broening Highway bridge over Colgate Creek in pursuit of crabs yesterday instead netted criminal trespassing citations from police, who have been increasing security around the port in response to terrorism.

The charges were ordered by the chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, who announced in a news release that he had spotted the afternoon crabbers and directed his officers to issue criminal citations carrying maximum penalties of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The crabbers were stunned.

"I've never done anything wrong in my life. I haven't even gotten a speeding ticket," said Theresa Hardbarger, 42, cited along with her husband, Edward Paul Hardbarger, 38, and John Edward Ash Jr., 38. "I'm just a nervous wreck."

The three said they had decided to go crabbing on a whim yesterday after seeing other crabbers around the bridge, which connects the Seagirt and Dundalk marine terminals. They had caught about a dozen and a half crabs under the bridge when an officer came by.

"He told us we shouldn't be there," Ash said. "He was being nice about it and just told us to pack up and go."

But while they were leaving, they said, transportation authority Chief Gary W. McLhinney, flanked by officers, approached and ordered the criminal citations.

"I don't understand what happened," Ash said. "I mean, I understand with 9/11 and all, it's good to increase security, but you got to keep a perspective. It's like they're beefing security but in the wrong way."

Last night, McLhinney said the crabbers were trespassing in a clearly posted area. "I just met with my officers [Monday] regarding the heightened security level," he said. "I told them we're going to have zero tolerance for trespassing and people who don't obey the rules."

The crabbers said they saw one side of the bridge with "No Trespassing" signs on a fenced-off area, but none on the side where they were crabbing.

"We didn't have bombs. We had some chicken necks and trap lines," Theresa Hardbarger said. "If we had known it was illegal, of course we wouldn't have gone down there."

The crabbers were released and allowed to keep their crabs. But Ash said, "I was too sick to my stomach after what happened to even cook them."

In another incident yesterday, Maryland Transportation Authority Police searched for what was described as "a suspicious person" spotted by a pilot walking near the end of a runway at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, authorities said.

Officers spotted a person climbing a fence and leaving the property about 2:20 p.m.

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