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Neighborhood watch applauded

June 14, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Some Jonathan Street area residents said Saturday they feel safer and more comfortable sending their children out to play one year after starting a neighborhood watch.

Rochelle Perrain, of 421F Sumans Ave., said she thinks her children are safer now when they play in Wheaton Park than a year ago.

"The mothers look out for each other's kids," Perrain said during a one-year anniversary celebration Saturday for the formation of the Parkside Residential Association.

Mercedes Pantophlet said her daughter, Marquita, 14, hasn't been approached by drug dealers yet this year. Last year when she was approached by a strange man, and she told him "no," Pantophlet said.

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Perrain said the June 17, 1997, creation of the neighborhood watch helped her son improve his grades.

"There wasn't a whole lot for kids to do before," she said.

Perrain said homework clubs and after-school programs provided by Memorial Recreation Center and Brothers United Who Dare To Care helped Michael, 9, turn his grades around.

The residential association, named after public housing in the neighborhood, was formed to help stop the drug dealing and related violent crimes, said Pamela Parson, president.

"We were tired of outsiders coming in and taking over and doing what they wanted to do," said Parson, 38, of 422 Sumans Ave.

So residents worked with the Hagerstown Housing Authority's security officials and Hagerstown City Police to create a neighborhood watch, she said.

When members spotted crime, they called the police, she said.

Parson said dealers would sell drugs in front of the neighborhood children, often sitting on a 4-foot high brick wall along Sumans Avenue and Wheaton Park. The illegal activity continued through last summer when the YMCA held a camp at the park, she said.

By lobbying city officials, the wall came down in March, she said.

The decision by city officials to make several streets in the neighborhood one-way and create a two-hour maximum for several parking spaces also helped, residents said.

On Friday night police ticketed some vehicles and broke up a loud graduation party on Sumans Avenue from which the odor of drugs could be detected, Parson said.

Unfortunately, while drug activity has declined in the Sumans Avenue neighborhood it appears to have moved across Jonathan Street to the Park Place neighborhood, Parson said.

Parson said she encouraged Park Place residents to join their neighborhood watch or start their own, but they weren't interested.

"They're afraid for their lives," Parson said.

"I think the most important thing we can do is pray as a community and ask God for guidance," she said.

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