Fells Point Halloween festivities end in violence for second year

Fells Point Halloween festivities end in violence for second year

For the second time in two years, violence marred Halloween festivities in Fells Point's bar district, revelry that some business owners and residents said has gotten increasingly out of hand in recent years.

A 22-year-old woman was shot in the foot and three people were stabbed after a street fight in separate incidents early Tuesday morning, police said. The violence occurred after hundreds flocked to the area to celebrate.

The historic waterfront neighborhod has long been a magnet for costumed merry-makers, but the lack of a formal event has contributed to a sense of chaos, as people gather in public spaces, leaving traffic and trash in their wake, some said.

"I was worried about my staff. I was worried about my customers," said Ron Furman, owner of Max's Taphouse, which was one of several establishments that shut its doors earlier than usual. "I had to do what I had to do."

The violence was another blow for an area where some said they still feel a loss of business they trace to 2015's unrest.

This year's incidents also follow a string of muggings, thefts and other high-profile incidents that have contributed to safety concerns in the neighborhood. Robberies, for example, are up 60 percent in Fells Point this year, compared to 2015.

"It feels like there's been a lot of stuff going on," said Scott Goldman, a former City Council candidate who serves on the crime prevention committee of the Fells Prospect Community Association. "It is persistent and frustrating."

After shots were fired in the 600 block of S. Broadway around 1 a.m. on Halloween night last year, the Baltimore Police Department deployed additional officers this year, said spokesman Lt. Jarron Jackson, who estimated the crowd in the "hundreds."

Jackson declined to comment on police strategy, but neighbors and business owners said police were a visible — if outnumbered — presence, conducting foot patrols and issuing commands from a helicopter to clear the area after 1 a.m. Tuesday. Unlike last year, police did not block roads, in an effort to reduce the party atmosphere, neighbors and business owners said.

Liquor Board inspectors were also on the scene in Fells Point last night to make sure that bars were not serving minors or filled over rated capacity, said Thomas R. Akras, deputy executive secretary for the Board of Liquor License Commissioners. They did not find any violations, he said.

Neighbor Chrissy Anderson said she is not sure what police or others could have done better.

"What happened last night is not … representative of life in Fells Point or business in Fells Point," she said. That's "also why it's so difficult to deal with because you don't expect a shooting to happen at a big Halloween celebration."

Jackson said police were nearby in both violent incidents, which occurred early Tuesday morning. Around 1 a.m., they moved to break up a fight in the 700 block of S. Broadway, finding three males hurt with stab wounds to the torso. One remained in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.

About 1:50 a.m., a woman was struck in the foot after shots were fired in the 400 block of S. Broadway, just north of the main hub of bars.

Officers do not believe the two incidents were related, nor do they know what started the fight, Jackson said. He said he could not link the events to any of the videos of fights circulating online.

The department has little information about suspects and is asking people to come forward with whatever footage or other information they have, he said.

"It's unfortunate that these individuals marred that whole celebration with these acts of violence," he said.

The violence and littering related to Halloween last year prompted calls from the state delegation and others for a more aggressive and coordinated response from city agencies.

City Councilman James B. Kraft declined through a staff member to comment on this year's incidents.

State Del. Brooke Lierman, who lives in the neighborhood, praised police and the Department of Public Works for their work this year, which included cleanup on Sunday and Tuesday mornings. But she said the violence makes it clear that another strategy is needed.

"We need to brainstorm about ways to ensure that people can have a safe and fun time in Fells Point on Halloween that does not result in stabbings or shootings," she said.

For several years, 98 Rock hosted costume parties in Fells Point. Furman and others said they thought bringing back an organized event could reduce the night's freewheeling atmosphere.

"After they pulled out, it kind of went into a free fall," said David Martz, president of the Fells Point Residents Association.

Martz said he expected police and neighbors to debrief at a community meeting Wednesday night.

"I saw emails flying around this morning, so there is concern, which I'm sure will be brought up tomorrow night," he said.

nsherman@baltsun.com

jfenton@baltsun.com

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