Last year, Baltimore police stepped up enforcement during July Fourth fireworks after a late-June shooting in the Inner Harbor. About a week before the 2010 fireworks, one member of a group of teens opened fire on another gathering of youths on a walkway near the World Trade Center, sending one man to the hospital.
Earlier this year, a teen was stabbed at Gay and Fayette streets the day after Easter when at least 100 teenagers roamed the streets near the Inner Harbor for more than two hours as police used megaphones to order them to leave.
Violence at the harbor received more attention during the spring and summer of 2009, with a string of random assaults by juveniles, a double stabbing in April and a double shooting in August. Much of the attention focused on nightclubs downtown and in Mount Vernon.
Celebratory gunfire during holidays has also been a concern, and if the bullet that struck the 4-year-old had been fired in the air, it would not be without precedent. In 2001, a 19-year-old girl was hospitalized after a stray bullet lodged in her forehead from gunfire during Inner Harbor fireworks after New Year's Eve. In 1992 during Fourth of July celebrations, a 50-year-old man was fatally shot while he watched the fireworks from a rooftop on East Baltimore Street.
Baltimore was also not alone in violence at Independence Day celebrations. According to news reports, a man was stabbed Monday night in Philadelphia near City Hall, and three people were shot downtown in Indianapolis.
Bealefeld said police commanders would be assessing how the massive deployment of officers was used. Officers now have BlackBerry smartphones equipped with GPS that allows commanders to track their movements throughout the city. Bealefeld said there were officers on the pier where the stabbing occurred, but he would not say how many or whether they responded to the first fight appropriately.
Officials also declined to comment on the possibility that the city might consider security checkpoints used in other places. Bealefeld said officials would be conducting a "top-to-bottom" review.
Jurg W. Mattman, a California-based security and crowd control expert, said that for a city of Baltimore's size and financial means, the installation of security checkpoints would most likely be unreasonable. The added cost of checkpoints, he said, might lead the city to cancel the fireworks display.
In Washington, the U.S. Park Police can afford to fence off access to the National Mall and institute a limited number of entry checkpoints where people may be searched because costs are supported by federal funds and policing duties are divided among several agencies.
Even in a post-Sept. 11 world, people in Baltimore are not as acclimated as those in Washington to heavy public security and might reject the idea of being screened before watching an Independence Day show, Mattman said.
One small security precaution Baltimore could take, Mattman said, is posting signs near the viewing areas to remind people that firearms and other weapons are prohibited. It's a minor step that deters people from bringing banned items into sporting events and concerts, he said.
"There's no 100 percent security," Mattman said. "You do the best you can. If that's not enough, then you cancel the event."
Overall, Baltimore police said they arrested 30 people and cited 20 juveniles for curfew violations and weapons Monday night.
"Getting kids out of downtown was cumbersome for us," Guglielmi said. Police did not chase groups that ran through the harbor, because they were posing no threat to themselves or others. However, when curfew went into effect at 11 p.m., officers — including the commissioner and his deputy commissioner — made arrests after giving warnings, Guglielmi said.
Though police said they had little information about how the 4-year-old might have been struck by a bullet, others said they had seen a disturbance and heard what sounded like shots in that area.
Resident Ali Cannavino was driving back from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport with her boyfriend about 10:30 p.m. when she said they got stuck in downtown traffic. While stopped next to the Metro station on East Baltimore Street between Charles and St. Paul streets, they saw "what looked like a scuffle," Cannavino, 27, said. "Then we heard a shot."
At first they thought the sound was fireworks, but then "we heard another one, and everyone started screaming and running."
Another resident, 31-year-old Jason Castonguay, said he saw the same incident. While he believed the noise to be fireworks, his brother-in-law thought it was gunshots and they saw people scattering. Bealefeld said there were "lots of fireworks going off" at that time and said there's no ballistic evidence to suggest a shooting occurred there.
Jacinta Ocampo, 45, was working in the McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant parking lot at the time of the stabbing and described the scene as chaotic. "The only thing I saw was the blood afterwards," she said. "I was really, really upset."
On Tuesday afternoon, a dozen white roses, wrapped in green tissue paper, had been placed on the brick walkway in front of the restaurant entrance.
Sun reporters Liz F. Kay, Steve Kilar, Julie Scharper, Julie Baughman and Rebekah Brown contributed to this article.