Coping with crime in the city and assorted short subjects

March 19, 1997

Coping with crime in the city

and assorted short subjects

How bad is the crime problem in Hagerstown? So bad that after 20 years of providing constituent service from an office at 28 W. Church St. across from the City Market, state Sen. Don Munson is considering moving to a new location.

"I'm seriously considering it, but I haven't made up my mind yet," Munson said Tuesday. He hastened to add that while neighborhood crime problems are a concern, "there's no question that city, state and county police departments are cooperating" on the problem.

The issue has also revved up the race for mayor, with both incumbent Steve Sager and challenger Bob Bruchey II telling citizens who attended this week's community forum at the Bethel Gardens Housing project that they would support increasing the size of the 93-officer force, even if it meant raising the property-tax rate a few cents.


Sager told me Tuesday that the first possibility explored would be using block grant or other funds to increase overtime, since it would take a year to train a raw recruit for the department. The other option would be to hire experienced officers, Sager said, as the department did recently when it hired a West Virginia state trooper.

Sager defended moves his administration has made over the years to put more officers on the street, and noted that bids are about to go out for $1 million in capital improvements for the police department, including a new computer system.

The drug-driven crime problem is something every local jurisdiction must face. After a young Waynesboro man died of a heroin/morphine overdose in January, Franklin County, Pa., police said they don't have the resources to fight the battle.

In Charles Town, W.Va., where former Drug Enforcement Administration official Mike Aldridge was hired as police chief, the town is facing the possibility that its experienced officers, who make $9 an hour, will be hired away by other, better-paying jurisdictions. The bottom line: Safe streets cost money, so get ready to pay up.

As for the city election, I'll be talking more to Sager and Bruchey as the campaign proceeds.

A co-worker who read my column about Washington County stop-smoking specialist Nell Stewart's early encounters with cigarettes (Stewart first snuck into the family's pickle cellar for a puff at age 5) recalls that when she was young and growing up in Sharpsburg, she and her friends would catch the school bus in front of the town's general store.

But before the bus came, they'd arrive early enough to go into the store, where the proprietor would sell them one cigarette, which they would pass from one to another while standing around the old pot-bellied stove.

Even 40 years ago, why would a storekeeper sell cigarettes to kids?

"Back then," she said, "Who knew it was bad for you?"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the city government's survey of low-cost meals available in downtown Hagerstown for senior citizens, it seems that Chuck Rubin's Celebrity Deli, at 36 N. Potomac St. is the only one to match the now-departed McCrory's diner price of 99 cents for two eggs, toast and hash browns. He was also the one to start the campaign to help seniors cope with the loss of their favorite eatery. So give him credit, or better yet, give him some business.

Overheard at the Dunkin' Donuts on Burhans Boulevard:

"I'll have a couple of those Barbarian Cremes, too."

With the untamed filling, no doubt.

A reader who saw A.E. Goodman's March 17 letter on the departure of the last School Sister of Notre Dame from St. Maria Goretti High School called to say that there is a company in St. Joseph, Mich., run by five brothers who make collectible dolls of nuns with authentic-style habits.

Those who weren't raised Catholic in the 1950s (and before) may be unaware that there are (or were) different "orders" of nuns, each with a distinctive costume, or "habit."

In my old grade school, (Our Lady of Sorrows, Takoma Park, Md.), the Sisters of Divine Providence wore starched headpieces that prevented us kids from seeing even a stray lock of their hair. Other orders were less rigid in their costuming.

The doll company is called Blessings, Expressions of Faith, and was started by five brothers who got together to work on other companies' mail-order catalogs (with photography, airbrushing and the like) in the early 1980s.

The brothers always dreamed of their own catalog, however, according to the main office, which said the firm now offers nun dolls garbed in the (pre-Vatican II) habits of 32 different communities as part of their regular line. Other lesser-known orders are available by special order.

If you're interested, write for a catalog to Blessings, Expressions of Faith, 2907 Division, Unit 106, P.O. Box 606, St. Joseph, Mich. 49085.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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