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One-way streets foiling drug dealers

March 01, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

One-way streets foiling drug dealers

For the first time since she moved to Sumans Avenue in 1993, Mercedes Pantophlet and her family have experienced peace and quiet and peace of mind.

Since Hagerstown officials changed the flow of traffic on her street at the end of November from two-way to one-way, Pantophlet said she hasn't seen drug dealers hanging out on the corners of the street and in front of her home. Traffic has decreased considerably.

"I love it. It's quieter. There aren't so many cars. It's what it should be and that's a nice, quiet neighborhood," said the mother of three who moved to Hagerstown from New York.

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Under a plan endorsed by Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and the City Council, several two-way streets and alleys in the Jonathan Street area were changed to one-way northbound roads.

Parking on Sumans Avenue was also restricted to two hours a day under the plan.

The changes were made to make it harder for drug buyers to loop around the neighborhood in search of dealers.

The one-way streets force them to drive several blocks out of their way, which inconveniences them and also makes it easier for police officers to spot them, said Hagerstown Police Chief Dale J. Jones.

For the most part, the feedback from residents has been positive and the directional changes on the streets seem to be helping, Jones said.

"It's not an extreme change, but there's a noticeable change in traffic flow," he said.

But to some degree, the crackdown in the Jonathan Street area has simply forced the drug dealers to move their business to other areas in the city, he said.

"Some of the dealers have moved farther south where it's more open," Jones said.

Though the street changes may make it tougher on drug dealing, it's also hard on some residents who say they're tired of going out of their way to get anywhere and that the decision to make the streets one-way was put into place without thinking it through.

"It's not fair to the people who live in the community," said Ernest Burnett, 36, who grew up on Sumans Avenue and lives there now with his family.

Before the changes, Sumans Avenue residents could get on North Avenue from the south end of the street. Now the only options are to go down Charles Street to North Potomac Street and then back onto North Avenue, or up Pennsylvania Avenue and then back down North Prospect Street. All of the alleys and roads in between Sumans Avenue are also one-way now, which makes it impossible to cut through.

Making Sumans Avenue one-way has also increased the volume of traffic going in one direction, making it harder for the children to cross, Burnett said.

The problems aren't as evident now because things are quieter during the winter, he said. But Burnett said he's worried the streets will become clogged in the spring and summer when there are more activities and sports going on at the nearby park.

But the residents have to decide whether getting rid of the drug activity in the neighborhood outweighs the inconvenience of putting up with the one-way streets, Jones said.

City officials are responding to complaints from residents in the Rubbie Avenue area, east of Jonathan Street, by changing the north end portion of it off of Charles Street back to two-way so that they can get to a parking lot. The south end of the avenue will remain one-way.

"We understand the reasons for the change and the police said such a change would not detract from their efforts," said Bruce Johnston, city engineer.

As it is now, people who want to get to the parking lot - mostly people who live in the area - have to circle around and enter the alley from North Avenue.

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