At 11 p.m., a police surveillance camera zoomed in on Eutaw Street, packed with cars and people heading home from an Orioles game. A few minutes later, another camera focused on Saratoga Street as a dispatcher sent cops to a report that "five or six people are outside the location fighting."
Within the next half-hour on live video beamed into the Citiwatch command center on Howard Street: Someone was assaulted at Penn and Pratt streets; an undercover cop searched a suspect at Paca and Mulberry; a dispatcher called out "an assault in progress" on West Lanvale. Then, a police officer trained one of the city's 480 cameras on a dozen teens as they walked toward the Inner Harbor and followed them, camera to camera, block to block.
A string of attacks at the harbor where tourists come and in neighborhoods filled with restaurants, theaters and nightclubs has renewed fears about crime and prompted police to flood the downtown area with cops from Rash Field to Mid-Town Belvedere.
Late Friday into early Saturday, police seemed to be everywhere - blocking streets, standing on corners, riding horses, flying a helicopter, driving a Winnebago. They were in the command center and on the streets, where the top cop himself, Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, walked a foot-post.
It was an impressive show of force aimed at taking back downtown and challenging packs of marauding youths, but the shift in personnel has come with a change in rhetoric as well.
Gone are defensive comments the commissioner made a few weeks ago when, amid reports that people were being randomly attacked, he visited the harbor to repeatedly urge visitors to enjoy the waterfront attraction and to reiterate that stats showed crime was down and people's fears were unfounded.
In recent days, Bealefeld has gone on a media blitz, on television and radio talk shows, erasing stats from his vocabulary and admitting that perception of crime is a legitimate concern and a problem he has to confront. He ousted the major in charge of the Central District, in part because an assault report was mishandled, but also because he felt officers at the harbor were not getting the job done.
"They weren't very clear about their mission," Bealefeld said while walking with the former commander's replacement, Maj. Dennis Smith.
On the Light Street promenade, they ran into four officers from the Northwest and Southwest districts, pulled into extra duty at the harbor.
One officer told the two bosses their mission was to "make sure everyone comes down here and enjoys themselves. Keep everyone calm and happy."
Standing on the brick sidewalk with bobbing sailboats in the background, Bealefeld huddled with them and said they had to be creative: "The harbor's big. Rash Field is big. Folks have just as much chance of being robbed on the Key Highway side of the harbor as they do along the promenade."
One officer stammered when Bealefeld quizzed them about how they should deploy, but another officer came to the rescue with the answer Bealefeld was looking for: "One on the promenade. One on Key Highway. Two on Rash Field."
"So where do I have you guys?" the commissioner said. "I have all four of you right here. I need you guys to think about that."
Bealefeld and Smith walked on. They urged a group of young women near the Maryland Science Center to be careful walking back to their car and evicted young men playing basketball on a court next to the American Visionary Arts Museum. Police have been strictly enforcing park closure times since last year, when two men were shot and killed in Federal Hill.
Walking back toward downtown, Smith called in officers to stop a car speeding up Light Street, and Bealefeld confronted a group of youngsters out past curfew. Both then headed toward The Block, passing by numerous officers and cruisers blocking streets to control the crowds that surge when bars and clubs close at 2 a.m.
The commissioner talked with a drunken man to make sure he knew how to get back to his hotel. He said "Thank you for your service" to a group of young Marines enjoying the clubs along East Baltimore Street. He and Smith sent two teens to the curfew center for being out too late.
"Here's the deal: You're 16, you have no business being downtown at 1:30 in the morning," Smith scolded one boy on The Block. "You should have a watch so you know what time it is. Do you know what the curfew laws are in this city? You have to be home by midnight. Not heading home. You have to be home."
The youth pleaded that he wasn't doing anything wrong. Bealefeld stepped in: "Yeah, you are doing something wrong. You are not where you are supposed to be."
Crime takes a different perspective back in the police video command room, called The Atrium, where cops watch the city by watching small screens on desks and bigger screens on walls, and pivot cameras using game-style joysticks to pan the vibrant ebb and flow of downtown and beyond.