After-hours incidents at Baltimore pools raise questions about safety and security

BALTIMORE – A A 15-year-old boy nearly drowned at a public pool in Baltimore City after it was closed for the day.

Police and first responders were called to the Roosevelt Park pool just after 9 p.m. Sunday, where the teenager was found unconscious, authorities said. Police said a friend pulled the teenager out of the pool after he was in the water for about 2 minutes.

The teenager survived and was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment. At the last check he was listed in stable condition.

Nikki Cobbs, water sports manager for the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, said the department has seen an increase in the number of people entering public pools after hours this year.

“We’ve put up signs – trespassing prohibited – so it’s actually against the law to come into our pools after hours,” she said.

Cobbs said intruders did more than go for an after-hours swim.

“We threw 50 pound umbrella feet in the pool, broke glass bottles and threw them in the pool. That resulted in the pool having to be drained and cleaned, and it was out of service for about two days,” Cobbs said. “We have a goal loss every day. Once we’ve noticed the lock in the gate, we’ll bring out the maintenance department to fix it. Then they do the same thing the next night.”

While repairing the damage can be costly, there is no after-hours lifeguard available to save someone’s life if they are drowning.

“It’s my fear,” said Cobbs. “I don’t want anyone drowning in one of our pools because they’re swimming without a lifeguard.”

The water sports manager said while staff patrol the pools at night in their free time, hiring security guards is now on the table.

It’s a step one camp counselor believes should be taken at all public pools in the city.

“I personally see kids in the pools and if they want my opinion on how to control this problem they should have some sort of security on foot patrolling the pool areas after hours,” Deborah Gaters said.

The Baltimore Police Department has also used its Foxtrot helicopter as a pool-clearing tool. It’s a method that Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen has called overkill.

Meanwhile, Cobb asks parents to talk to their children about the dangers of breaking the law.

“It’s just really important to me. I need everyone I beg of you please help me keep these pools safe,” she said.

You can find more information about the 2022 bathing season and opening hours here.

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