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Residents worry about crime

April 12, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

When Eva Allen was growing up in the Jonathan Street area of Hagerstown, people took care of the things they had, whether they had a lot or a little.

Allen, 27, says things are much different now.

"Some people have, like, a city attitude. They just don't care," said Allen, who now lives several blocks away but works in the area.

Allen and other residents blame the influence of drug dealers from New York City and Washington, D.C.

This new breed of dealers has been infiltrating Tri-State area neighborhoods over the last few years, police said.

"It's kind of sad to see the out-of-town people come here and destroy the area," Allen said, especially when some residents are working hard for the good of the community.

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Last month, a New Jersey man's body was found less than a block away from Memorial Recreation Center and Project Head Start, two places that hundreds of children visit daily.

Hagerstown Police believe the slaying was drug related.

"It makes you concerned about what might happen," said Ruth Monroe, who runs the recreation center on North Avenue.

Monroe, who has noticed the out-of-state drug influence, is more worried about the long-term effect on the community's youth than on any immediate danger of violence.

"We do have a lot of people from out of state coming into the community. I think that's where most of the drug selling comes from," she said.

But she said Jonathan Street isn't the only area of the city suffering from the same problem.

"There's drugs everywhere, all over, but you just hear about what happens on Jonathan Street," she said.

In Martinsburg, W.Va., the spotlight is now on the Centre Street community between East Burke and Vicky Bullet streets.

Last August, police found crack cocaine in an apartment there and arrested two New York City residents.

"They're coming from other areas," said longtime Centre Street resident Anna V. Bell, 74. "The street talk is they go places where it's quiet to try to sell dope."

Her neighbor, Harriet Lee, 66, said things in the neighborhood are quiet now but she worries about what might happen as the weather gets warmer and crowds start hanging out on the streets.

Tri-State area police officers say they are concerned about the problem of out-of-state drug dealers.

Often, however, the best they can hope for is moving the problem to another part of town, they say.

Many residents believe that police are doing what they can.

Hagerstown City Police have given safety advice to teachers at Project Head Start on West North Avenue, where 160 preschool students go every day.

In the 12 years that Stephanie Scott has worked there, crime has not touched the children.

But she has noticed more out-of-state tags on cars in the area and reads in the newspaper about things that happen in the area at night, said Scott, the family services coordinator.

She has also seen more police cars around.

"They're very visible. That makes us feel better to know that they're around," she said.

But others, like Allen, worry that police aren't doing enough to stand behind those in the community who are trying to do good things.

"Police are afraid to stand up," she said.

Some people are so afraid they have purchased pit bulls as pets, said a 67-year-old minister who lives on West North Avenue in Hagerstown.

The man, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, said he calls police when he sees drug dealers congregating.

"To me, it's a nuisance and something that should never have come this way," he said. "These are not local people, although local people get caught up in it."

Local people become drug users and give the dealers somewhere to stay.

"It looks like sometimes they come in with reservations. They know they'll be taken care of," he said.

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