Bags and belongings subject to search at New Year's Eve celebration

Police heighten security in the Inner Harbor for Tuesday's fireworks show and New Year's countdown

December 30, 2013|By Justin George, The Baltimore Sun

Heading downtown to ring in 2014? Leave your bags and packages at home or they could be searched.

That's the message Baltimore police gave as they previewed the tight security measures planned for Tuesday night's New Year's Eve Spectacular fireworks and laser show at the Inner Harbor.

"We want everyone to come downtown and have a good time," Lt. Col. Melissa Hyatt said.

Police plan to deploy scores of officers — some in plainclothes, some traveling by horseback and helicopter. Others will be stationed behind monitors showing footage from CitiWatch surveillance cameras downtown.

More than 50,000 spectators are expected to attend the annual event, which includes a free concert and fireworks bursting over the water at midnight.

Spectators can expect a zero-tolerance stance on open-container violations, Col. Darryl DeSousa said.

"We're not going to take no nonsense," he said. "We expect zero problems."

Police declined to disclose the number of officers to be deployed downtown, but Hyatt said the city will draw on other agencies, including school district police and transit police. Crowds headed to the Inner Harbor promenade will have to pass through bike rack fencing, but Hyatt said they will not face pat-downs.

Hyatt said spectators should be prepared to have their bags or belongings searched, a measure that could be instituted if police receive information that could trigger a heightened level of security.

Police will also be patrolling neighborhoods, responding to any reports or sounds of guns fired into the air in celebration of the new year, Hyatt said.

"Discharging a weapon in the city is illegal," Hyatt said. "We are prepared for celebratory gunfire. We will be ready."

In metropolitan areas, many governments, including in Baltimore and Baltimore County, have passed local laws that prohibit the "unlawful discharge" of guns — or shooting for almost any reason.

Last year, 10-year-old Aaliyah Boyer was struck by an errant bullet and killed after midnight last New Year's Eve while she was watching fireworks outside her grandparents' Elkton home, Cecil County sheriff's officials said. The shooter has not been found.

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