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Drug activity frustrates Sumans Avenue residents

August 27, 1998|By MATTHEW BIENIEK

Frustration over continued drug trafficking on and around Sumans Avenue spilled over at a Wednesday night emergency meeting called by Pamela Parson, president of the Parkside Resident Association.

About 40 area residents attended the meeting at the Sumans Avenue Community Center.

In November, Hagerstown officials took a stab at solving the drug problem by changing the flow of traffic on the street from two-way to one-way.

The change was expected to make it harder for drug buyers to loop around the neighborhood looking for dealers.

At the same time, parking on the street was limited to two hours.

"Changes for the better came but we've lost them," Parson said.

Parson and neighborhood residents were not the only ones expressing disappointment over a return of heavy and open drug trafficking in the area.

"I'm as frustrated as I've ever been, " said Hagerstown police officer Curtis Wood, who has worked in the area for several years.

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Wood said that as he chased a suspected dealer on foot recently, some people in the area cheered on the dealer.

Some residents said the parking restrictions were not enforced strictly enough.

Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones said enforcing the parking restriction was difficult because any movement of a car within two hours would prevent an officer from issuing a citation.

Jones said he thought the restriction had relieved some traffic congestion in the area.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the city plans to launch new law enforcement initiatives in the area but he would not elaborate.

Jones said there are always at least two beat officers in the area, and as many as 10 at times when the street crimes task force was assigned to the area.

At least one resident said he'd had enough. He asked Jones if police could look the other way while he and a group of supporters "knocked some heads together."

Jones said he could not support people taking the law into their own hands.

Jones said that visibility of law-abiding residents was part of the solution.

Jones is working on such a plan with Haru Carter, pastor of Zion Baptist Church at Jonathan and Bethel streets.

Carter is organizing a citizens patrol to take to the streets in groups with cellular phones and cameras to chase drug dealers and help police.

"A lot of problems need to be dealt with, not with weapons but with our presence in the streets," Carter said.

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