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Crime prevention program celebrates successes

June 15, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

by JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

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Carolyn Brooks, HotSpot coordinator

City officials and residents of the Jonathan Street area came to an open house Sunday afternoon to celebrate the gains they have made over the last six months and to plan their next accomplishments.

Carolyn Brooks, coordinator of Hagerstown's HotSpot, said the open house showed off the program's office at the corner of North Jonathan Street and North Avenue.

The office, which doubles as a police substation and a parole and probation office, gives the crime-fighting initiative higher visibility, Brooks said.

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"It's easier access for the people in the community," she said. "I'm real optimistic about it."

Brooks has been working for most of the year implementing the HotSpot program, a statewide, multifaceted assault on crime in a narrow geographic area.

Hagerstown's HotSpot, a rectangular section of the city stretching from Prospect Avenue to Memorial Boulevard and bounded on the east and west by Prospect and Mulberry streets, accounts for about a third of the county's violent crime.

The residents who showed up Sunday said they have noticed a difference in their community since Brooks started and since the police launched a street crime unit in January to fight the drug trade.

"It's the best thing that ever happened," said Martha Cheeves, who lives four doors away from the HotSpot office. "I see less traffic. We have less noise."

Lenzlea F. Mosby Jr., who until recently owned a grocery store in the neighborhood, said he has noticed a positive change.

"If you were driving slow, some druggie would come up and say, 'What do you need? I have the best stuff,'" he said. "It's kind of gone into the closet It's not nearly what it was six months ago."

Lt. Margaret Kline said officers can use the office to file police reports, interview witnesses or use the phone. She said officers have gradually formed a bond with area residents since police turned the former barber shop into a substation almost two years ago.

"I have seen an increase in community involvement," she said.

Cheeves said police come quicker when residents call and people are not as cowed by the large groups of teens and young men who hang out on street corners at night.

"You just have to keep them moving. You can't let them know you're afraid," she said. "I live here."

Brooks seconded the sentiment: "That's what it's all about - reclaiming the neighborhood."

A third group shares the office: the Division of Parole and Probation.

Parole agent Jackie McDonnell said using the office is part of an overall strategy of improving contact with their clients.

By assigning some agents exclusively to the HotSpot area, she said agents have been able to "become experts in community resources."

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