Police raid The Block strip clubs in gang case

Baltimore Police raided four strip clubs on The Block and several residences Tuesday night as part of what they described as an investigation into gangs and violence.

Police said the raids were the culmination of a five-month investigation leading to the indictment of nine people, four of whom were taken into custody Tuesday. Officials wouldn't say how the businesses were tied to the case.


"We were looking at individuals who were involved in gang activity. We followed the evidence, and that brought us to these establishments," said Lt. Sarah Connolly, a police department spokeswoman.

Connolly said police recovered ammunition, drugs and money during the raids. She said the people charged in the case are "associated with shootings and robberies that have occurred throughout the city," but did not elaborate. Police would not specify the addresses where items were recovered.


The clubs that were raided were Chez Joey, Circus Bar, Lust and Norma Jean's, police said.

Norma Jean's owner Peter Ireland said police showed up at around 8 p.m. and said they were conducting a raid. He said police did not have a search warrant at first, and later left a copy that was undated and unsigned.

Police say it is department policy not to leave signed warrants with property owners and noted that Ireland was given a "sealing order" that allows authorities to keep details of the case concealed.

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Ireland said police searched the entire building, including lockers and a safe, and did not take anything or arrest anyone. Afterward, they were shut down for the night with police saying they were acting on orders from the Liquor Board.

Asked if his club had any ties to gang activity, Ireland said, "We have no idea what this gang thing is. The club is not affiliated with gangs. The … city is a gang. They didn't arrest nobody in my club. They searched lockers, everything, and nobody was arrested."

"We're just trying to run a simple business," he said. "We've been there 18 years with no problems."

Ernest Hatmaker, who owns Chez Joey, said his doorman was arrested, but a police search of the business turned up nothing. He said the club wants nothing to do with gangs and drugs and takes action if it is aware of any violation.

"It absolutely puzzles me," Hatmaker, who claims he was not given a copy of a search warrant, said of the business search. "It's very discouraging for a business owner that tries to do things properly."


Attempts to reach the other clubs or their representatives were unsuccessful.