Jonathan Street is state crime 'HotSpot'

June 30, 1997


Staff Writer

State officials today will announce that Washington County will receive more than $180,000 in grant money to fight crime in Hagerstown's Jonathan Street area.

The $181,690 grant, part of the state's "HotSpots" anti-crime initiative, will pay for one community police officer, four new agents in the Division of Parole and Probation, one agent in the Department of Juvenile Justice and assistance from the Maryland State Police, according to officials with Gov. Parris Glendening's administration.

The money also will fund an after-school program, a full-time neighborhood coordinator, community cleanups and various support equipment.

"I am absolutely delighted to hear that we are getting that size grant," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who has closely followed the program from the time state officials announced it in March.


The thrust of the program is to select small geographic areas that are high in crime and target them with a variety of efforts ranging from traditional police enforcement to crime prevention activities to better coordination among social services agencies.

According to statistics included in the county's grant application, the 425-resident Jonathan Street area accounts for 23 percent of the county's violent crime.

"It's an amazing statistic," said Charles Summers, director of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

Summers said his agents are well acquainted with the area; nearly half of the unit's drug arrests last year were made in the neighborhood, he said.

Summers said his agents spend a great deal of their time rounding up drug dealers in the neighborhood. But to truly clean the area up, he said, it will mean "doing more than locking people up."

That's why hiring more parole and probation officers is important, Summers said. He said they have significant authority - if they have enough manpower.

"Those P and P officers have a lot of power over people on parole," he said.

Munson said he considered moving his constituent office away from Church Street after seeing prostitutes and drug dealing after a late-night meeting in February.

"During the last legislative session, the drug dealers and the prostitutes took that area over," he said. "I couldn't believe what I saw. I had two choices - either to leave or fight back. I chose to fight back."

Residents of the area who have long complained about crime overrunning their neighborhood, cheered news of the grant on Monday.

"That's very good news for the neighborhood and for Hagerstown," said Stanley Brown Jr., vice president of Brothers United Who Dare to Care. "We would like to see more street enforcement. We feel street enforcement is the primary issue right now."

Donald Davis, president of the Washington County chapter of the NAACP, said he hopes officials concentrate on ridding the community of out-of-town drug dealers.

"I just hope these young boys coming from these big cities don't start marking off turf," said Davis, who lives on North Jonathan Street. "We've just got to come up with some way to get them out of here."

The "HotSpots" initiative does not come without strings or concerns. Some residents of other parts of the city have expressed fears that targeting the Jonathan Street area will push crime into their neighborhoods.

And since the program pledges support only for three years, officials could find themselves in a position of having to choose between losing the additional resources and coming up with local funds.

Munson said that is all the more reason why authorities should hit the ground running.

"I think we need to use those three years well to get control of the problem," he said.

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