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West End celebrates a night out

August 04, 1998

West End celebrates National Night OutBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer [enlarge]




Some came to the West End's National Night Out picnic Tuesday for the free food, some for the door prizes and others for the fire trucks and police command center on wheels.

What they all got, according to organizers, was an old-fashioned spirit of community.

"It gives the West End people a sense of purpose," said Joe Imes, president of a local neighborhood watch group.

Imes estimated the picnic drew about 200 people throughout the evening.

It was part of National Night Out, a 15-year-old national crime-fighting effort. An observance also was held Tuesday night in Boonsboro's Shafer Memorial Park.

Imes said the annual event, held Tuesday in the parking lot of Grace United Methodist Church, is one of the few opportunities for the entire neighborhood to come together and socialize.

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The event also was an occasion to mark the progress the neighborhood has made over the last year, Imes said. Just a block away from the picnic, at the corner of Winter and George streets, large numbers of rowdy youths used to congregate, he said.

"I still get calls, but not near as much as I used to," he said.

Imes credited an increased police presence for chasing away the troublemakers.

Police Lt. Margaret Kline, who has worked closely with neighborhood groups throughout Hagerstown, said many people in modern society are not as close as they once were to the people they live near.

"The whole idea of people getting together to know their neighbors is very important," she said.

Six police officers joined the residents on Tuesday evening.

Some residents took the opportunity to tour the Mobile Police Command Center, a vehicle that can serve as a base of operations for police officers.

Lt. Roy Cave said the vehicle is equipped with a bathroom, a power generator and basic crime-fighting equipment.

Soon, he said, it will have a radio system that will allow Hagerstown police officers to communicate with one another as well as with other police agencies.

The Hagerstown Fire Department used Tuesday's event to promote fire safety.

Mike Weller, the department's education officer, said firefighters stressed the importance of preventing fires.

When a fire does break out, the financial costs - as well as the human toll - can be enormous, he said.

For instance, it costs $2,900 to outfit one firefighter, Weller said. The new ladder truck that the department showed off on Tuesday cost $600,000, he said.

"The cost of reaction is very expensive," he said. "Certainly, it's much more cost-effective for us and the taxpayer to prevent fires."

If the goal of the event was to increase the feeling of community, it worked in the case of Alexander Street residents Harry Bengtson and Shirley Sheffield.

"It is very handy," Bengtson said.

"They're very good to us," Sheffield added.

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