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What the West End needs

October 28, 1997

Residents of Hagerstown's West End need a couple of tools in their fight against crime, but we're not sure one of them is giving citizens the power to write traffic citations. This seems like a plan almost certain to spark ill will between neighbors, when there are better ways to accomplish the same task.

The suggestion arose at a Monday night neighborhood meeting at the Church of God on Linganore Avenue. Joe Imes, a member of group called West End Against Trouble Crime and Harassment, or WATCH, suggested his group be allowed to write traffic citations.

Imes said that reident members of the group could be trained to respond when officiers could not respond immediately, to issue citations for parking violations, squealing wheels and reckless driving.

We admire Imes and his willingness to help, but there's a difference between checking overdue meters and confronting a reckless driver in the street. If a WATCH member gets hurt, is the city liable? If a WATCH member is sued over some enforcement action he or she took, are the taxpayers' responsible?

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Imes' proposal might make sense if the City of Hagerstown was poverty-stricken, but it's easily within the city's power to create the equivalent of a resident deputy program for the West End.

Such programs ususally feature an officer stationed in a centrally located storefront, who responds only to calls within certain area. The city government, which recently created the position of special projects manager, can afford to do this. The only question is whether elected officials want to do it.

The other tool the West End needs is a youth recreation center like the one the Boys and Girls Club set up in the Frederick Manor housing project. Staffers there found youths craved the structure of a program and preferred it to "hanging" on the streets. It's time for someone to start the ball rolling for something similar in the West End.

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