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Q&A with Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones

August 07, 1998

EDITOR'S NOTE: We asked several people in Hagerstown what they would ask Police Chief Dale Jones if they had five minutes with him. We then took the questions to Jones in an hour-long interview. What follows are his words, edited for length.

What progress has been made as far as the mayor's initiative to secure neighborhoods in Hagerstown?




"I think in that area there has been a real significant amount of progress made because we've been able to bring more resources to bear in terms of enforcement efforts and working with the neighborhoods and communities.

"It's just not the police department; it ranges from (the) HotSpots initiative through Neighborhoods First and etc.

"But in the police department alone what we've been able to do in terms of increasing enforcement efforts and having police officers more closely in contact with the citizens has been real significant.

"Probably the best example of that has been the recent change in the crime rate, dropping dramatically this past spring. Hopefully we'll sustain that and see a long-term drop.

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"We've seen a real significant increase in arrests for drug-related activity and prostitution and other types of crimes that I would describe as disorder crimes."

What's the biggest problem facing city police right now?




"People coming in from outside the state, particularly New York, to distribute their drugs here. But in order to sell that much, there's got to be a huge dependency problem here and I think that that's where we really need the help. It's not necessarily only a policing effort. If you could decrease that dependency on illegal drugs by our community and by people outside the community that come in to buy drugs here, then you'd be doing a great service to the community."

What is the police department doing to get the out-of-state drugs out of Hagerstown?




"The primary thing is investigation and arrest. What we hope to be able to do is to deter their coming here by (letting them) know there's a real high possibility that they'll be arrested. We've had a number of (people) we've actually arrested the first day they were in town. We hope that word gets back to wherever they're coming from or whatever groups they're working with."

As the city acquires more funding and money to fight crime, how and where is it going to be distributed?




"As you know, there was a recent tax increase and that money is already dedicated. We have now 100 police officers and we're using some of the additional tax dollars in addition to some of the grants we have coming in to fund the existing manpower.

"We've applied for (several grants) for specific efforts. For example, if we were to get a grant through housing for drug elimination then that would mean that the money would be used for overtime efforts in policing in housing. Or we just discussed in council the possibility of applying for a block grant for around $70,000 ... for policing disorder crimes. We'd ... plan a number of different operations, from reverse drug stings to prostitution stings, street-level drug arrests, any type of investigations that we feel would address our primary problems."

Is there any move by the police department to provide higher police visibility in Hagerstown's high crime areas?




"Most of the police officers we've hired have gone back into patrol. We have 100 police officers right now. Four years ago, we had 88. One of them was in a lab and one was doing vehicle maintenance. We pulled those out, so in effect you have 14 more positions ... all in operational areas. That will provide more visibility, whether it's from walking downtown or working specific neighborhoods."

How can we change the tide in crime with the number of police we have now and the budget that's available?




"When (seven officers in training are done), that will allow us to distribute more officers actually on the patrol shifts and will allow the patrol sergeants and the lieutenants to do more with the shifts that they have. Instead of being reactive as much, it will allow them to be a little bit more proactive to problem solving and working out problems within the different neighborhoods.

"We may also, with that, be able to strengthen what we are doing right now with the street crime unit. It has already been pretty successful."

To what do you credit the crime rate reduction in the city?




"I would credit that to a whole comprehensive effort. I think that you give some credit to citizens for being involved. I think we're getting more calls. I give a lot of credit to police employees. I think they've done a real good job.

"The patrol officers have increased the number of arrests in disorder-type crimes dramatically over the past few years. So the patrol officers, the street crime unit and even the Narcotics Task Force, they've just jumped tremendously each year in terms of the number of arrests and the number of actual charges filed."

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