WASHINGTON - It's a whole new tune for fans heading into Nationals Park, as D.C. police crack down on ticket scalpers outside the stadium.
Fans exiting the Navy Yard Metro onto Half Street for this week's homestand have been greeted by a D.C. Police vehicle with a loudspeaker on top blaring "Attention:This is the Metropolitan Police. The buying and selling of tickets on public space is illegal. You can be arrested. If you are arrested, you will miss the ballgame. The D.C. jails have no TV." The message, played on a loop, carries into the Half Street Fairgrounds, and down toward the Centerfield Gate.
D.C. police would not say what sparked the crackdown this week or if the Capitals' playoff games, DC United games and the summer concert season will encourage similar enforcement efforts for events at the Verizon Center, RFK Stadium or other venues.
"We are enforcing the law. Four people were arrested on Wednesday night," police spokeswoman Gwen Crump writes in an email.
Part of the District's anti-soliciting statute provides that "No person shall sell or offer to sell tickets from the sidewalks, streets, or public spaces anywhere in the District of Columbia for any excursion, theatrical performance, opera, ball game, or any entertainment of any kind."
The penalty is a fine up to $300 or up to 90 days in prison.
Outside Nationals Park, the reaction has been mixed. Many fans say having people outside the ballpark selling tickets should be okay as long as the sellers aren't accosting people.
"I think they need to lighten up a little bit," Laurie Rothfeld from Potomac says of the crackdown.
"It's just part of going to the ballpark," her husband Daniel adds. They are Nationals season ticket holders, but have bought scalped tickets at other events in the past.
One man selling tickets on Half Street said Saturday,"There are terrorists and all that and they're (police) worrying about tickets. Stop."
Another man holding lower-level tickets and a parking pass in his hand as fans walked past him down 1st Street SE agreed to talk as long as his name was not used.
"Now I'm not saying I'm a scalper or anything, but I'll be out here. And I'm saying that you have [police] out here saying people are selling fake tickets, but what's really going on is this: you've got the season ticket holders who are selling their tickets online and then coming out here reselling the copies that they have, making it seem like the scalpers out here are selling bad tickets," he says.
"They're doing more arresting now, when they shouldn't because it's not the scalpers that're doing anything. The people want the scalpers because what'd you rather pay, $10 with me out here, or go to the window and pay $20?" he adds.
After being interrupted by a call asking which tickets he has in his hands, he says he would support setting up a zone where scalpers could legally sell tickets as long as they were licensed.
"No scalpers [are] out here selling fake tickets because police know them," he adds. "The police are cognizant of who everyone is, so if you're cognizant that this guy sells tickets, and you see him every day, why would he be selling fake tickets and he comes back here every game? Not only down here, but the Verizon Center [and] RFK," he says.
"It's the same thing StubHub does. They're doing the same thing online. So, what's the difference from them doing it online and us doing it out here?" he asks rhetorically.
Under D.C. law, the difference is the sale is being made on the streets or in public spaces. But even with the crackdown and increased police presence in the areas tickets are often sold, tickets continue to change hands outside the ballpark at a brisk pace.
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