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W.Va. police chief considers team to fight 'hot spots'

March 26, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg Police Chief Wayne E. Cleveland said he is considering using a $17,000 grant to form a team of officers that would specialize in eradicating crime "hot spots" in town.

Cleveland said police routinely face spurts of crime such as break-ins or drug trafficking in certain neighborhoods. In Martinsburg, for example, there recently were a series of thefts from cars in the South End of town, but Cleveland said he had limited resources to deal with the problem.

With Cleveland's proposed Community Action Team, up to five officers would be specially designated to deal with problems such as the string of thefts. The officers would concentrate on the problem areas to quickly bring an end to the "hot spots" and perhaps solve the cases, said Cleveland.

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The team would be formed with a $17,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant that was awarded to the police department in December, said Cleveland. Cleveland said he will explain the idea to city residents tonight at a public meeting at city hall on North Queen Street.

Police said the 7 p.m. meeting not only will give them an opportunity to explain the grant, but will provide them with an overview of the department's law enforcement efforts.

Martinsburg City Councilman Oden L. Barrett said he likes Cleveland's proposal. Barrett, who is coordinator of the East End Neighborhood Watch, said special teams such as the one Cleveland is proposing allow officers and residents to become better acquainted with each other.

That type of relationship usually results in a better understanding of the crime problems in a neighborhood and how they can be stopped, Barrett said.

"Something like that would be helpful in the city," Barrett said. "I agree whole-heartedly."

Similar grants have been awarded to the police department in the past to target problems such as drunken driving, Cleveland said.

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