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There's hope in the 'hot spot'

February 28, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

There's hope in the 'hot spot'

State officials who designed the "HotSpot Communities Initiative" hope for a 25 to 30 percent reduction in crime in Hagerstown's problem-ridden neighborhoods.

If that happens, John Middlekauff expects his parole and probation agents to see a reduction in the number of offenders who violate the terms of their release.

In conjunction with that initiative, the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation has launched Operation Spotlight, an effort to intensify contact with offenders on parole and probation.

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Since November, all of the cases in the half-mile zone in downtown Hagerstown that make up the hot spot have been transferred to four agents. One of those agents, the spotlight agent, handles all of the cases that require the greatest level of supervision.

In addition to regularly meeting with clients at the agency's Hagerstown office, the four agents travel with police in unannounced visits to their homes.

For Middlekauff, field supervisor of the Hagerstown office, the changes could not have come at a better time. The drug-driven crime increase that has flooded the courts and county jail has also overloaded his staff.

Consider some statistics. Ten years ago, the office had 5,090 active cases, Middlekauff said. At the end of 1996, that number had grown to 867 active cases; by the end of January 1998, it had jumped to 981.

"Needless to say, the statistics in Hagerstown and Washington County have grown significantly, almost geometrically rather than mathematically," Middlekauff said. "That kind of growth would make any corporation proud."

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