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Drug trade in county said at 'crisis' point

March 26, 1997

By ELLEN LYON

Staff Writer

Drug dealers from New York and Baltimore are invading Hagerstown, representing a more violent, "street smart" generation of criminals, local law enforcement officials told a joint meeting of the Hagerstown Mayor and Council and the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday afternoon.

"We're facing some alarming statistics," Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades said. "There's some bad people out on the street."

The Washington County Narcotics Task Force handled 145 cases in 1995 and 196 cases in 1996, Director Charles R. Summers said.

So far in 1997, the task force, which has eight officers, has handled 62 cases and, if that rate continues, the number could reach about 250 cases by year's end, Summers said.

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"What we have seen in the last three years is a growing number of out-of-town dope dealers" attracted to Hagerstown by buyers willing to pay higher prices for drugs, he said.

"We don't see any end in sight," Summers said. "It's just stretching our resources to the breaking point."

The Washington County Detention Center on Tuesday housed 378 inmates, 66 percent of whom were jailed for drug offenses or drug-related crimes, Mades said.

Thirty-two of the inmates are from New York, 26 are from Baltimore, and nine each are from Washington, D.C., and Florida, he said.

Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones pointed to the Sunday night shooting death on West North Avenue of a suspected drug dealer from New Jersey. He was found with packets of crack cocaine on his body, according to Hagerstown Police.

"I think we've got a crisis here," Washington County Commissioner R. Lee Downey said. He asked what the community can do to help.

"I think the word needs to go out to the community that it's everybody's problem," Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. said.

"People have to be willing to get involved and sometimes it's at some risk," Long said. "You folks need to support the police."

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