Lights stay on to ward off crime

May 27, 1997


Staff Writer

Mary Spencer kept her porch light on all weekend, and wished more people had done the same.

Spencer, 42, said she counted three or four homes on her Bethune Avenue block that had their lights on throughout the holiday weekend as part of an organized demonstration to show community solidarity against drugs and crime in the Jonathan Street neighborhood.

"I thought it was a good idea, but more people should have participated," said Spencer, a block captain for the Neighborhood Watch Group. Her organization, along with Brothers United who Dare to Care Inc. and the Hagerstown City Police, promoted the porch light demonstration.

"Things weren't totally lit up, but I was encouraged," said Stanley Brown Jr., vice president of Brothers United.

Brown said his personal tour through the neighborhood showed about a third of the homes kept their lights on.

"It was just enough here and there to know that people are concerned," he said.


Keeping the porch lights on had both a practical and symbolic significance, Brown said. Bright lights discourage drug dealers from working near a particular home, but having many homes do it at once also "lets the community come together for a purpose," he said.

Hagerstown City Police Sgt. Margaret Kline said she counted 65 buildings with porch lights on Saturday night.

"It was nice to see that many people were responding to the effort," said Kline, who has recently been working in the Jonathan Street area.

The lights gave police a better view of some areas of the neighborhood that are difficult to see at night, she said. Of particular notice were the bright lights in front of Second Christian Church on North Avenue.

"It's amazing what a difference the lights being on made for that church," Kline said.

Organizers believe there would have been more participants had people been accustomed to the program. Similar porch-light weekends are being planned for other holidays this year.

Spencer agreed that as people become more aware of the program they will be more interested, but added there will always be some resisting community activities.

"There's a lot of people who don't like to get involved in things," she said.

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