Rawlings-Blake, Batts stroll to show safe harbor

Rawlings-Blake, Batts stroll to show safe harbor
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, center, greeted residents, business owners and visitors during the walk she and Police Chief Anthony Batts, right, did around the Inner Harbor area. The officials took to the streets to show the safety of the city's downtown tourism district. (Colin Campbellstaff, Baltimore Sun)

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts walked from Howard Street to the Inner Harbor on Wednesday night to promote safety in the city's downtown area.

Escorted by several police cars, the group meandered from The Atrium to Harborplace, stopping at shops and restaurants and shaking hands with people they saw along the way.


"I do a public safety walk annually to connect with the residents and businesses down here and have a conversation about deployment as we're going into the summer because it impacts residents' ability to enjoy the Inner Harbor," Rawlings-Blake said. "It is a major industry in the city."

Police have focused on groups of juveniles causing trouble in the tourism district. Lt. Col. Melissa Hyatt, the Area 1 commander overseeing the Central District and the Inner Harbor, said police had a meeting with about 20 students last month to hear their perspective on how the Inner Harbor could be better policed.

Hyatt said her main takeaway was that the teenagers want to know the rules and want them enforced fairly and consistently.

Some of these rules — such as "public intoxication and disorderly conduct will not be tolerated" — are on a list of "Inner Harbor Guidelines" sheets police give out over major holiday weekends.

Hyatt said police want to move away from their current tactic of merely pushing the groups out of the downtown area to other districts.

Instead, she said, the department wants to clearly explain the expectations to them so they can coexist with tourists, Hyatt said.

Fuad Saeed and his daughter, Amani Almahbashi said they think the Inner Harbor is safe. But Almahbashi said she still clutches her cellphone a little closer when she's walking around downtown.

Laurie Schwartz, president of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, said she has seen a big difference in the Inner Harbor's security.

"Officers are patrolling, they're more interactive," she said. "There's been more sharing of information and better communication with the Waterfront Partnership."

As the group made its way to the harbor, an official at the Hippodrome Theatre thanked the officials for visiting and said the venue is committed to the safety of the area.

One man near a bus stop told the mayor he'd been unable to get a job because of a prior gun arrest. A staff member handed him a business card and told him to get in touch.

The group stopped in at The QG, a men's barbershop and spa, to look around. Rawlings-Blake greeted groups eating dinner at Brio Tuscan Grille and outside M&S Grill near the harbor, then went to Brio with her staff after rain started and the walk ended.