Funding slated for crime 'hotspots'

March 19, 1997


Staff Writer

Maryland officials Tuesday kicked off a new program that could make up to $200,000 available over the next three years for Washington County to fight crime.

Local leaders said there is a consensus to direct efforts - and the grant money - at Hagerstown, probably in the Jonathan Street corridor.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spoke to a group of leaders from across the state who gathered in Baltimore to learn about the "Hotspots Community Initiative," a plan designed to target high-crime areas.


Officials from Washington County have until May 8 to apply for state and federal money. The grants, ranging from about $35,000 to $200,000, will be awarded in July.

"It's a very aggressive time line," said Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager, one of nearly a dozen local officials who attended Tuesday's conference.

State officials who crafted the first-in-the-nation program, hope it will become a model for fighting and preventing crime. The plan gives local leaders broad leeway in fashioning programs that include the courts, law enforcement agencies, health officials and juvenile services.

36 spots are hot

In all, 36 hotspots will be designated, with at least one in each county, said Chuck Porcari, a spokesman with the Department of Business and Economic Development.

"Research shows that 50 percent of violent crime occurs in 3 percent of addresses," he said. "Never before have all these different strategies been put together in the same neighborhoods."

County leaders still must formally agree on a hotspot, but several said that the Jonathan Street area appears to be the strongest candidate.

"It's our hottest spot," said Sager, who added it might be possible to designate a hotspot that would include other troubled areas, like parts of the West End.

Police Chief Dale J. Jones said the plan's architects will have to design a program that coordinates services from a variety of departments.

"We're going to have to come up with a concept first," he said.

Sager said one possibility would be to hire a person to coordinate efforts of city and county agencies. The strategy could combine traditional crime-fighting with youth programs and prosecuting initiatives.

Robert Weaver, supervisor of the Washington County office of the Department of Juvenile Justice, said cooperation among various agencies is already high.

Drugs pose problem

Sheriff Charles F. Mades, who also attended the conference, said Monday that most authorities recognize that Hagerstown has the most concentrated crime problems.

"The hotspots lately have been drug trafficking areas in Hagerstown," he said. "Now, we are concerned with helping the city with their problem. I just don't have gangs hanging out in Smithsburg selling drugs."

Residents of the Jonathan Street area cheered news that their neighborhood was being considered for a hotspot designation.

"I know there's criminal activity in other parts of the county," said Stan Brown Jr., vice president of Brothers United Who Dare to Care Inc. "But if you look at other parts of the county, in perspective, I would say Jonathan Street deserves priority right now."

But residents in other parts of the city said they were concerned placing emphasis on one part of the city will hurt others.

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