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W.Va. neighborhood 'under siege'

August 19, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

GERRARDSTOWN, W.Va - Local police agencies are doing what they can - including beefing up patrols and making arrests - to address a rash of problems in a Gerrardstown neighborhood, officials said Wednesday.

Calls complaining of loud parties, noisy motorbike riding, loitering groups of youths with knives and vandalism started coming in last month, police officials said.

A complaint of a loud party on July 25 led to the Aug. 16 arrest of Vickie Creamer, 36, of Route 1, Box 78M, Gerrardstown, on charges of cultivating a controlled substance, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

West Virginia State Police troopers investigating the party complaint noticed four marijuana plants growing in a yard, according to court records.

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Creamer has been released on $25,000 bond, according to court records.

Creamer's arrest prompted a 16-year-old Gerrardstown boy to threaten a couple with a rifle, according to West Virginia State Police. Police returned and chased the boy into the woods, said Sgt. J.A. Humphrey.

He was charged with brandishing a weapon, obstructing an officer and being a minor in possession of a firearm, Humphrey said.

The couple's daughter, Diana Douglass, claims the boy's arrest touched off a string of retributory acts by his friends.

On Tuesday night, someone fired shots at her family's two vehicles and their home's front windows, she said.

Douglass, 46, who with her parents owns Mill Creek Manor Bed and Breakfast on Virginia Line Road, said she has complained to state police and the sheriff's department about the ongoing problems and their slow response to calls.

"It's unbelievable. We are under siege. We can't even leave our home," she said.

Both departments have been doing their best to handle the complaints, said Humphrey and Berkeley County Sheriff Ronald E. Jones.

Response time comes down to how many officers are on the road when a call comes in, where they are, what they're doing and the call's priority in relation to others they need to handle, both said.

For example, a domestic situation in which a weapon is involved would be handled before a report of someone standing in the street yelling obscenities, Jones said.

Sheriff's deputies have responded as quickly as possible to calls of problems in Gerrardstown, he said.

On Tuesday night, a deputy took eight minutes to arrive at the Douglass residence after a request for a patrol because a large group of people with knives was reportedly outside, according to the police report. All was quiet when the deputy arrived, the report said.

When the deputy returned later that night to check the area, he was flagged down and told about BB gunshots fired at the Douglass vehicles and home, according to the report.

While personnel is spread thin, state police plan to focus on the area as much as possible to try to diffuse problems, Humphrey said.

"We are going to invest any spare unit we have between calls," he said. "If they know we're in the area or if they know we might be in the area, maybe it will quiet things down."

The sheriff's department will also do its best, but it can't focus on one area at the expense of the rest of the county, Jones said.

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