The Baltimore Police Department, along with other local and state law enforcement agencies, is stepping up anti-crime, crowd control and peacekeeping efforts in the city during the Fourth of July holiday.
BPD Lt. Col. Darryl DeSousa said July 3 that leave has been canceled for officers during the holiday and that the police force will be at “full strength” to handle crowds expected to top 200,000 people in downtown for a waterfront festival and fireworks display.
Expect to see an increased police street presence, especially in downtown Baltimore and the surrounding area with officers on foot, and horseback, in addition to intense citywide police patrols in cruisers, he told reporters.
In addition, surveillance cameras will be used and undercover officers will blend into the crowds expected to surge in and around the Inner Harbor, he said.
“We’re not going to take any nonsense,” said DeSousa. “We’re not going to tolerate any irate drunk and disorderlies. We’re not going to tolerate street fights.”
“We want to send a strong message that the Inner Harbor is going to be safe on the Fourth of July,” DeSousa said during a news conference. “It’s not just Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area that’s going to be safe, but it’s going to be the surrounding districts.”
De Sousa announced the police department will partner with the Maryland State Police, the Baltimore City Sheriff and Maryland’s transportation authority police during the holiday.
Lt. Col. Anthony Satchell of the Maryland State Police said they will have patrols set up on highways to check vehicles for illegal contraband, including illegal fireworks.
“We are patrolling … near the Baltimore city area looking for trucks that are carrying illegal fireworks along with hazardous material and contraband that might be headed to Baltimore city,” said Satchell during the joint press conference.
Satchell said the BPD/ state police partnership will continue throughout the summer for events such as the African American Heritage Festival, ArtScape and the Baltimore Grand Prix.
DeSousa said the police department’s new approach to security deployment and anti-crime patrols for Independence Day will reflect lessons learned after deadly violence marred the Super Bowl victory celebration earlier this year.
DeSousa said a thin police presence beyond the Inner Harbor lead to unruly crowds, injuries and violent incidents during the post-Super Bowl parade.
“So it’s no surprise, if you remember the Super Bowl… we caught violence on the outskirts of where the deployment was,” said De Sousa. This time, he said, “we will have cops deployed equally from Fayette Street all the way down to the Promenade.”
A perimeter of bike-rack fencing is to be used for crowd control, too. The technique was first employed after a tourist was fatally stabbed at Pier Six and a 4-year-old wounded by a stray bullet from gunfire after 2011 July 4th events.
With more than 40 shootings in the first two weeks of summer, police officials say they will also use the hashtag #ASafeBaltimore on Twitter to post booking photos, arrest warrants and other police activity during the coming months.