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Crime rate drops for first half of 1998

July 14, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

Crime in Hagerstown plummeted during the first half of 1998, a trend reversal that officials say is due in part to a joint effort by police and the community.

Standing in front of the city's HotSpot office on the corner of Jonathan Street and North Avenue on Tuesday, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey and Police Chief Dale J. Jones held a press conference to announce a 20 percent decrease in crime compared to the same time last year.

"This is a perfect example of how citizens and police can work together to fight crime," Bruchey said.

The formation of the city's street crime unit in January is just one of the initiatives that has had an impact on crime in the city, Jones and Bruchey said.

In its first month of operation, the unit made 102 arrests. Eighty-six of those arrests were for drug violations, more than half of the total drug arrests city police made in all of 1997.

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A shooting on Jonathan Street on Jan. 12 prompted police and city officials to launch the unit earlier than expected.

Special operations in the form of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, now the Regional DEA Task Force, along with progress by officers who make up the city's criminal investigation division and the regular patrol all can take credit for the lower crime statistics, Jones said.

"Overall it's a collective and combined effort ... A lot of people are working hard and praying to see it happen," he said.

Efforts by the HotSpot initiative, the city's Housing Authority, and the development of neighborhood and community programs like Neighborhoods First and Neighborhood Watch also have helped, Bruchey and Jones said.

In the first half of the year, the number of reported rapes, aggravated assaults, breaking and entering, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson were lower in the city than for the same period last year, according to police statistics.

The number of murders - one - stayed the same, and robberies increased from 42 in the first half of 1997 to 48 this year, the statistics said.

Jones said he hopes the trend continues and that the city will see an overall decline in the second half of the year.

Hagerstown's results reflect an overall decrease in crime in Washington County and in the state of Maryland, according to first-quarter statistics released last week by the Maryland State Police Uniform Crime Reporting System.

In Washington County, crime decreased by 22.2 percent from January to March this year compared to the same time period in 1997, the statistics said.

Reports of rape, aggravated assault, breaking and entering, theft, and arson all show a decrease from the numbers reported last year.

Robbery was up by four incidents to 33 from last year's 29, the statistics said.

Murder also is up one from last year to two in the first three months of 1998, the statistics said.

Crime in Maryland decreased 6 percent in the first three months of 1998 compared to last year, the statistics said.

Violent crime, including murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, decreased 5 percent, according to the statistics.

Property crime, including breaking and entering, theft, and motor vehicle theft, decreased 6 percent in the state in the first three months, the statistics said.

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