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'Hot spot' coordinator says reach the young early

February 08, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

'Hot spot' coordinator says reach the young early

Carolyn Williams Brooks prefers to work behind the scenes, letting others take the credit for accomplishments achieved during community-wide efforts.

In accepting the position as coordinator of Hagerstown's "hot spot" program, Brooks has moved into a public role. But she said she will tackle her new responsibilities with the same reserved style she has used to address dozens of issues over the years.

"I saw that as an extension of some of the things I'm already doing in the community," said the South Hagerstown High School graduate.

Those things include service in dozens of church groups, community organizations, educational institutions and community campaigns. Brooks, who graduated from a community college in Illinois, was the first black member of Hagerstown Junior College's board of trustees and the first female chair of the Hagerstown Housing Authority board.

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A Hagerstown native, Brooks said she has devoted her life to education and sees that as the key to long-term crime prevention.

"We need to reach young people as early as we can," she said. "I think that's crucial."

When state officials awarded Washington County $221,000 last year to fight crime under its Maryland HotSpots Communities Initiative, they included about $43,000 to fund a full-time coordinator.

Brooks, who formally begins Feb. 17, will be the point person in developing short- and long-range strategies to attack crime in the hot spot, which is a roughly rectangular section of the city stretching from Prospect Avenue to Memorial Boulevard and bounded on the east and west by Prospect Street and Mulberry Street.

When they selected her last week, Washington County leaders said they were impressed by Brooks' organizational skills. Those talents will be put to an early test: The hot spot program is a wide-ranging effort involving government agencies, community organizations, youth groups and police.

Brooks said she will spend her first few weeks examining existing programs. Since officials began putting ideas into place about nine months ago, Brooks will have some catching up to do, but she added that does not bother her.

"I've been aboard a lot of planes that were built in flight," she said.

And Brooks said her years of work in the community gives her a head start that an outsider might not have.

"I've gotten calls today from people who are ready to jump in and help," she said. "I don't have to establish my credibility."

As the initiative comes together, Brooks and others will have to establish specific goals. They also will have to prepare funding requests for the second year of operation.

Although the original concept is for a three-year program, Brooks said she does not want to think too far ahead.

"My commitment is for one year at a time," she said.

By focusing so many resources on a small area, Brooks said she is sensitive to concerns from other residents that other areas will be short-changed.

"We're going to concentrate on this area for a time and then we're going to move out. We want (crime) out altogether," she said. "We don't want to just push it to another area."

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