At first, a Baltimore police commander attributed Canton's O'Donnell Square being transformed into the Preakness Infield to unexpectedly large crowds on St. Patrick's Day. Residents complained the police didn't do their jobs.
Monday night, the police department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, blamed an overtime patrol that was added to help police the large contingent of bars smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
"The officers that didn't take action were the overtime unit," Guglielmi said. When the Southeast District's deputy major drove by the square on Saturday, and saw it packed with people openly drinking alcohol, she shut it down, the spokesman said.
"There is no question the neighborhood was destroyed, and it shouldn't have been," Guglielmi said. "It looked like a garbage dump. Homeowners deserve better."
Read full story here, along with an account of violence in the Inner Harbor.
Officials said the beer consumed in the square came from a liquor store, not the numerous bars surrounding the square, who had permission to put up tents to enlarge their space. Stephan Fogleman, the city's liquor board chairman, who lives in Canton, said it appeared that officers thought the tents also sanctioned public drinking.
The commander of the Southeastern District, Maj. Bill Davis, said there was no confusion, but simply too many people. He said they deployed based on crowd estimates from last year'sSt. Patrick's Day, which was on a Friday, and in worse weather.
Still, police promised to do better next year. The video from resident Dustin Ritter, who also wrote city leaders to complain, shows a free-for-all in the square. Ritter said business owners had the square cleaned up by Sunday morning.
But Ritter took exception to the police contritions, saying:
"The comments from the police department in your update, "promised better police deployment next year: “There is no question the neighborhood was destroyed, and it shouldn’t have been. It looked like a garbage dump. Homeowners deserve better.” are unacceptable. We didn't need more officers, we needed the deployed officers to uphold the law. The response to a failure by the SED police should not be we'll do better next year with more officers/more costs to City taxpayers/local businesses ... Also, the discrepancies in police statements regarding citations and lack of having control of the scene, should be addressed. This represents a larger issue in the department and community relations."