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At Fells Point Town Hall, Police Commissioner Promises More Patrol Officers, DWI Checkpoints

Fells Point. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison addressed a slew of recent shootings in the popular nightlife destination on Thursday night.
kelly bell photography/Flickr
Fells Point. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison addressed a slew of recent shootings in the popular nightlife destination on Thursday night.

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and other members of Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration addressed a slew of recent shootings in Fells Point at a virtual town hall Thursday night.

“You will see a much enhanced presence, visibility and engagement,” Harrison said, noting that nine additional BPD officers, as well as sheriff’s deputies, will be assigned to the historic waterfront neighborhood, beginning this weekend. He said they will scan crowds for “potential conflicts where we might see individuals and or groups engaging one another, where they could be a conflict that could be a fight which could escalate to further violence.”

Harrison added that BPD will operate a DWI checkpoint around the outskirts of Fells Point, a popular nightlife destination, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and that a police helicopter will fly around the neighborhood for aerial camera footage.

Sunny Schnitzer, the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, said the Law Department and Liquor Board will study changes on pandemic-related executive orders governing alcohol sales. City businesses with liquor licenses are currently permitted to sell takeout drinks.

“Please know this is not a one and done,” she said. “We are absolutely working towards more sustainable solutions for everyone involved for every agency.”

Around 550 people attended the town hall; non-City Hall participants were muted and posted questions to a chat box before it was disabled. Scott did not speak at the event, which he announced after three people were shot in Fells Point early Sunday morning.

Two men, 24- and 26-years-old, were found with gunshot wounds by police on the 1700 block of Thames Street; they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said. Another man was shot in the head on Aliceanna Street; according to the police, he is in serious but stable condition.

The shootings prompted more than 30 Fells Point business owners to threaten to withhold their taxes if Scott and other leaders do not address crime and trash problems in Fells Point. Thiru Vignarajah, an attorney who ran two failed campaigns in citywide Democratic primaries — one for mayor against Scott last year and another against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in 2014 — is an organizer of the group, which bemoaned “chaos and lawlessness” in a letter to the mayor, Harrison and Councilman Zeke Cohen.

“When it comes to prostitution, public urination and defecation, and the illegal sale and consumption of alcohol and illict drugs on the streets, we know these crimes are not as serious as the carjackings, shootings and homicides that have become routine,” they wrote. “But, as this past weekend proved, a culture of lawlessness rarely remains confined to petty offenses and invariably leads to the kinds of violence and tragedy we witnessed.”

More than 150 people signed a petition by Brian Seel that countered the business owners’ letter.

“This is not to say that we should accept the level of violence that happened in Fells Point last weekend, or the escalating level of mayhem that has impacted Fell’s Point in the last weeks, and the last years,” he wrote. “Threatening to withhold taxes and fees until certain conditions are met can only serve to exacerbate existing inequities between neighborhoods and threaten the basic services you seek while ensuring even greater inequity in public services throughout the city.”

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.