BERLIN — With thousands of people cramming into downtown Berlin last Saturday for a multitude of events, highlighted by the wildly successful “America’s Coolest Small Town” celebration, one of the interesting side stories to emerge is that Berlin does not have a public urination ordinance on its books.
The huge party held in celebration of the town’s “Coolest Small Town” honor attracted thousands of reveling residents and visitors last Saturday for an afternoon of live music, dancing and the liberal flow of adult beverages. During his follow-up report to the Mayor and Council on Monday, Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing said the big crowd was generally well behaved and there were no major incidents reported, but perhaps the largest celebration in downtown Berlin ever revealed a glaring omission in the town code.
“It was a good day all around and the attitude and behavior of the crowd was outstanding for the most part,” he said. “What we did learn, however, is we have an omission in our ordinance covering public urination.”
Downing said there was no hard data about the number of cases and the evidence was largely anecdotal, but the lack of a public urination ordinance on the books created some issues for the police department.
“Absent a public urination ordinance, we’ve been using indecent exposure as the next closest charge, but it’s a little heavy-handed and not appropriate in most cases,” he said. “I’ve talked to [Town Attorney] Dave [Gaskill] about it and he’s working on an ordinance. We’ll bring it to you for approval when it’s completed.”
Downing said the indecent exposure charge carries stiff penalties too harsh in most cases. He also said the indecent exposure charge can include sex offender implications in some cases.
Mayor Gee Williams agreed with the need to come up with a less stringent but equally important public urination ordinance.
“It sounds like we need the appropriate hammer, but not a sledge hammer,” he said.
Otherwise, Downing said from a law enforcement standpoint, the weekend was fairly calm and a large success.
“We had a busy Saturday to say the least,” he said. “We had the Little League parade, a 5K race, Beach Lacrosse and that small event downtown,” he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “We would not have been able to pull it off without the help of the Maryland State Police and the Sheriff’s Office. The volunteers also did a great job with helping move people around safely.”