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Editorial - Another satellite, please

April 22, 1998

In the wake of an April 13 shooting in the 900 block of Lanvale St., residents of Hagerstown's West End gathered this week in an effort to find a way to deal with neighborhood crime. What they heard was that police can only do so much. After that, it's up to the residents.

We agree; to rid the neighborhood of crime and drugs, the community will have to join together in things like Neighborhood Watch groups. But something else can and should be done: Create another satellite operation of the Boys' and Girls Club, like the one now in operation at the Frederick Manor housing project.

The operation there, housed in an existing gymnasium and one of the project's housing units, provides children there with everything from organized physical activity to homework help. And more important, it provides them with incentives to turn their lives in the right direction.

Young club members who do everything from helping with clean-up to reading books are treated to small prizes and an occasional outing. But the prizes themselves seem less important than the positive reinforcement that they get for doing something right.

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Youngsters in the Westview housing project and the West End need that kind of reinforcement, too. That's because the police can arrest one drug dealer after another, but if there are young customers willing to fill their idle time by getting high, other dealers will come in to fill the void.

Children can take the bus now to the Boys and Girls Club headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, but parents who are reluctant to let their children play outside may also be reluctant to put them on a bus.

Getting the project going won't be easy; an anti-drug grant that might have provided start-up costs went to Baltimore instead this year. Despite that, it's time for local officials to make this a priority, because law enforcement is just one side of this coin. The other and just as important part of building better neighborhoods is providing the kids that live there with something better to do.

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