LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR, Md - The sign says ‘No’, but the welcoming cold waters of Loch Raven Reservoir may be difficult to resist on a steamy, hot day like this one and it’s been that way for years.
"A long, long time ago... just once,” said Carol Sadtler of Parkville, “I didn't go in very far though. It's not illegal."
The seven officers charged with policing Baltimore’s reservoirs beg to differ.
"It is a fine of $100 or it can be a fine punishable by jail time,” said Sgt. Smith with the Baltimore Environmental Police, “You can also be arrested. It is a criminal offense to swim in the city's reservoirs."
As recently as two years ago, three people drown in the city’s reservoirs in three weeks’ time.
Fishermen, like Ray Stern from Bowleys Quarters, say they spot people swimming there all the time.
"Especially on the weekends and in the holes it's hard to get to,” said Stern, “It's not only the kids, but the adults as well. Some of them have the flotation devices and some don't."
Along with the submerged drift wood, rock formations and other dangerous obstacles, there’s also a dam, swift currents and a treacherous drop off that can pose risks.
That’s why the officers are all business in seeking out illegal swimmers and writing them up.
"When you're by yourself, you have to call for back up and have somebody on the top of the hill and then I run out in the boat,” said Officer Janos, “If they don't run, I can deal with them. If they run, the officer at the top of the hill usually catches them and if they run, we usually lock them up."
Water that’s ankle-deep along the shore can suddenly drop off 40 feet just a few yards away, and at its deepest point, the Loch Raven Reservoir reaches 100 feet deep.
Last year alone, the environmental police issued more than 1,300 warnings and more than 200 citations.
For fear of retaliation, they wouldn’t allow us to use their first names.
The city’s three reservoirs provide the drinking water for 1.8 million people in the area, and police say swimming also can contaminate the water.
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