Fights Prompt More Inner Harbor Patrols

Two Teens Stabbed As Unruly Youths Descend Upon Area

April 28, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,peter.hermann@baltsun.com

Baltimore police are increasing the number of officers patrolling the Inner Harbor after a disturbance Saturday night left two teenagers stabbed and forced some businesses to either close or stop admitting patrons even as a throng swarmed the city's premier tourist attraction.

Police Col. John Skinner, the chief of patrol, said a combination of hot weather - the temperature surged from 72 on Friday to 90 on Saturday - and a program offering discounts for kids at stores attracted "a Fourth of July-sized" crowd, described as unprecedented for a pre-summer weekend.

Skinner said that as the crowd grew through the late afternoon and evening, he diverted police officers and members of the tactical unit closer to the pavilions along Light and Pratt streets. He said many people appeared intimidated by packs of "predominantly unsupervised youths" 10 to 12 strong running across the outdoor promenades and through the enclosed malls.

Police said that about 9:30 p.m., a 16-year-old boy was talking with a girl near the Pratt Street Pavilion when other males "took exception" to the conversation, Skinner said. The boy was then beaten and stabbed in the upper chest, according to a police report. The wounded youth walked several blocks to East Baltimore Street before contacting police.

The same group involved with that fight then walked along Pratt Street at the harbor and, a few minutes later, got into another altercation that ended with another youth getting stabbed, Skinner said. Both boys were hospitalized with serious wounds. Police arrested two youths and charged them as adults with assault.

Skinner said that police did not close the Inner Harbor but that some business closed early.

Julia Orbino, 26, a waitress at Tir Na nOg Irish Bar and Grill on the second level of the Pratt Street Pavilion with a balcony overlooking the water, said she saw dozens of police officers thinning the crowd and moving people away, sometimes with pushing and shoving on both sides.

"We saw a couple of women in handcuffs sitting on benches," she said. "You know how when people fight, they attract an unbelievable amount of people. I've never seen a crowd like that from this perspective."

Orbino said police prevented people from getting into the buildings - police said they did not order any business shut down or locked up - and that a group of 60 that had booked a room in the restaurant was told that their party had to be canceled. "People could not come into the building, and those who were here, we told them to stay and enjoy another drink because it wasn't a good time to leave," she said.

Police did not publicize the disturbance on Facebook or Twitter, which are used to alert residents to breaking crime across the city, and the department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said the stabbings and other problems did not get disseminated on pagers held by commanders. He said such incidents would be made public more quickly in the future.

Skinner said that about 11 p.m., officers began what police call a sweeping operation - clearing out unsupervised youths to meet the midnight curfew. The patrol commander said there is a meeting set for Tuesday to determine staffing levels for the Inner Harbor, and he said Saturday's disturbance will mean more patrols earlier in the season than usual.

"This has accelerated our plans," Skinner said. "I think it's an indication that we're going to see some large crowds."

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