Towson businesses and residents may get relief this fall from rowdy crowds that have besieged the area in recent years after leaving the Skateland roller rink.
Baltimore County police and the owners of Skateland are hoping new hours, more officers and zero tolerance for trouble will alleviate community concerns when the skating season begins Friday.
"We're not going to tolerate any nonsense," said police Maj. Johnny C. Whitehead, commander of the Towson Precinct.
But several store owners and neighbors said they are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the new measures.
"We do have concerns. It might be the answer," said Wayne Skinner, a member and past president of the Towson-Loch Raven Community Council who has monitored the Skateland situation for four seasons.
Residents and store owners complained of fighting, thefts and vandalism as teen-agers, sometimes numbering up to 500, left the skating facility on Orchard Tree Lane at closing time and headed to East Joppa Road. Several business owners closed stores early on weekend nights, fearing trouble.
Bill Hacker, owner of the 7-Eleven store on Pleasant Plains Road, said he would have lost money if he stayed open. The teens tried to outdo each other by taking items and damaging merchandise in the store, he said.
"They overwhelmed the stores by sheer numbers," Major Whitehead said.
This year, Skateland's Friday night closing is being moved from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. to encourage a gradual dispersal of patrons.
On Saturdays, when most of the problems occurred, only adults 21 and older with photo identification will be admitted. The closing time will remain 10:30 p.m.
Mr. Hacker predicted, "All it is going to do is force [younger rink patrons] to come on Friday night."
"The other problem is the late hour on Friday," said Mr. Skinner. "It has some people in the community nervous."
Major Whitehead said 10 to 12 police officers will be posted along Joppa Road on Fridays and Saturdays as a deterrent to trouble. Also, Skateland will hire off-duty or retired officers in uniform to monitor its parking lot.
It already has off-duty officers working indoors, uses metal detectors and prohibits patrons from wearing gang colors, Major Whitehead said.