W.Va. towns receive police grants

May 19, 1997


Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two communities in the Eastern Panhandle have each been awarded $150,000 federal police grants that will be used to combat domestic violence and underage drinking, according to authorities.

Martinsburg, a leader in the number of domestic violence cases for cities of its size in West Virginia, will use the $150,000 grant to attack the problem, Police Chief Wayne Cleveland said Monday.

And police in Shepherdstown, W.Va., will use the money from the federal Community Oriented Policing award to combat the college town's problem of underage drinking, said Shepherdstown Police Chief Cecil Arnold.


The grants were announced by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, both D-W.Va. The money will let local police departments create programs to address persistent crime problems facing their communities, Rockefeller said.

In Martinsburg, the money will pay for, among other things, panic alarms for women who have protection orders against abusive husbands and boyfriends. The women can summon police with the alarms whenever the men violate a court order to stay away, Cleveland said.

West Virginia leads the nation in domestic violence cases, Cleveland said.

"It's our biggest problem," Cleveland said.

Overall, the Martinsburg's crime rate is down, except for domestic violence, he said. "While it's dropping too, it's still extremely high," Cleveland said. "It's the single biggest thing. We clearly need to address the issue," he said.

Most of the cases are repeat offenses that occur in a group of about 35 dysfunctional families, Cleveland said. "They're our biggest problem," he said.

Police will work with agencies like the Shenandoah Women's Center, citizens advocate groups, counselors and prosecutors in developing a plan, Cleveland said. "We're hoping to develop a comprehensive plan that will be used as a national model," he said.

Arnold said police in Shepherdstown will meet with community, church and civic leaders and college officials to develop a plan on how best to spend the department's grant. Underage drinking is a growing problem in Shepherdstown, he said.

"It leads to rowdyism, littering, vandalism and destruction of property," Arnold said.

Shepherdstown's population is less than 2,000, but there are nearly 4,000 students attending Shepherd College.

Arnold said police average six to eight arrests a month for underage drinking. Not all of those arrested are college students, he said. Some of the effort will focus on high school students, he said.

"The goal is to improve the quality of life for everyone by establishing a long-lasting partnership between police and the community," Arnold said.

Some of the grant money will be used to train employees who serve liquor in bars, restaurants and stores. The Shepherdstown Business Association has been paying for some of the training given by state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission officials.

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