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Mayor's e-mail catches New York's attention

December 09, 1997

Mayor's e-mail catches New York's attention

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II e-mailed New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani this summer with a blunt message: The Big Apple's success in fighting drug dealers has pushed crime toward Hagerstown.

"The only thing is, your success is our problem," Bruchey recalled writing.

Bruchey said he didn't hear anything for several months and figured his message had been sent to the electronic circular file.

But about three weeks ago a letter from New York's police chief arrived along with a gift: information about strategies New York has used to bring about a dramatic drop in violent crime.

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Bruchey said the information included a book entitled "Operation Losing Proposition" and two pamphlets detailing anti-drug and anti-prostitution efforts. He said he sent the pamphlets to Hagerstown Police Chief Dale J. Jones.

"I thought, 'Well, you know, I'll give it a shot.' I jumped on the Internet and sent a message up there," Bruchey said. "I thought it was really neat that he took time out to take care of that."

As New York has posted eye-catching drops in major crime over the last few years, officials of cities across the country have searched for ways to emulate the success, said New York City Police Department spokeswoman Carmen Melandez.

"We get a lot of inquiries relative to our crime reductions," she said.

Jones said the publications reiterate what city officials have learned elsewhere.

He said he attended a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police last year that stressed the same points and went to another conference last spring.

"It's pretty straightforward stuff," he said.

The strategies represent a philosophy Jones said city police already are moving toward. In a nutshell, the idea is that cities should crack down on panhandling, loitering, graffiti and other "nuisance crimes" in order to prevent serious, violent crime.

While not everything is applicable, Jones said the basic thrust remains relevant. He pointed to recent prostitution raids, which require a great deal of coordination and effort but are considered important to maintaining quality of life.

"That's one of the reasons we've hit that so hard," he said.

Jones said the department has taken steps over the past year to target drugs, rather than to rely solely on the Washington County Narcotics Task Force. He said drug arrests made by patrol officers are up this year.

Jones said statistics reveal what Bruchey alluded to in his letter to Giuliani - increasing numbers of drug dealers are coming from New York, Florida and other metropolitan areas. He said successful crime-fighting efforts in those places may have contributed to that influx.

"That's just an assumption," he said.

Jones and Narcotics Task Force director Sgt. Charles Summers suggested that high demand among Hagerstown-area residents might have as much to do with it.

"I think one of the reasons they're here is there's a tremendous profit to be made here," Summers said.

While the price of crack has been dropping in Hagerstown, Summers said out-of-town dealers can still command two to three times more in Hagerstown than they can back home.

Summers said he has not heard a New York dealer tell authorities he came to Hagerstown because of increased enforcement.

Whatever the reasons, though, Summers endorsed the approach. He said violent criminals cannot commit crimes if police lock them up for driving on a suspended license, for example.

The theory is little more than a back-to-basics method of law enforcement, Summers said.

"It's not some kind of new revelation," he said.

In fighting crime, Bruchey said Hagerstown has more in common with New York than it might think.

"We are a small version of a large city. We have the same problems large cities do," he said.

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