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Watchers want to issue traffic tickets

October 28, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

A member of a West End neighborhood watch group suggested to city officials Monday night that members of his organization be allowed to write tickets for traffic violations in his neighborhood.

Sometimes it takes a while for police to respond to calls, and writing tickets for the police department could help them with their duties, said Joe Imes of the West End Against Trouble, Crime and Harassment, or WATCH.

Imes discussed the issue during a meeting at the Church of God at Linganore Avenue and Hammond Street.

About 30 local residents came to the meeting to talk about crime, problem youths and other issues.

With the exception of Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, city officials indicated they had problems with Imes' idea.

Although he said he understands people's desire to help fight crime, City Council member Lewis Metzner said he does not think giving citizens enforcement powers is practical.

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Capt. Robert Voytko of the Hagerstown Police Department said he was concerned about liability issues Imes could face.

Bruchey, however, said a similar program has been started in Frederick, and perhaps it should be explored here. Bruchey said the group in Frederick helps police with checking meters and other duties.

Imes suggested offering training for neighborhood watch members who would be willing to write tickets for traffic violations.

He said the volunteers could respond to traffic complaints if an officer was not immediately available to respond.

Imes said the Neighborhood Watch volunteers could respond to incidents such as parking violations, squealing tire complaints or other reckless driving violations.

Volunteers would "advise them (motorists) of their rights" and write a citation if the problem continues, said Imes.

"I'm not saying go out there and arrest someone," said Imes.

The rest of the meeting mostly centered around youths who some said loiter throughout town at night, make lewd gestures in public and commit crime.

Earl Marquiss of 620 Salem Ave., said he and his wife returned home one day and saw a girl walking down an alley with an armload of belongings that came from his basement.

Marquiss said police told him there was nothing they could do because the girl was too young.

Metzner said the response was "unacceptable," and if a situation like that happens again, Marquiss should report it to City Council members.

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