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Brooks marks one year in HotSpot

February 16, 1999

CW BrooksBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer




Keeping drug dealers off the streets and eliminating the violence that accompanies them takes a community-wide effort, according to Hagerstown's HotSpot coordinator.

A year after accepting the job with the HotSpot program, Carolyn Williams Brooks said she has learned the police can't do it alone.

Brooks said people need to report crimes and suspicious behavior to authorities and be strong enough to resist drug dealers who might offer cash for such things as a place to stay or use of the bathroom.

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"They can't stand out on the street corner for 24 hours," she said.

Over the past year, Brooks said she has evaluated the designated area's needs by attending meetings with the public and local leaders. As a result, a computer lab for children and adults is in the works along with other programs.

Working out of her North Street office, Brooks is available to meet with residents and to act as an advocate in certain situations.

"We've focused a lot on prevention and community mobilization - getting the community energized to reclaim its neighborhood through cleanups," she said.

Brooks said she has received support from residents in the designated HotSpot area.

"We're fortunate that a lot of community members have bought into it and see a light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

State officials in 1997 awarded Washington County $221,000 to fight crime under its Maryland HotSpot Communities Initiative aimed at high-crime areas. In 1998, $110,000 was awarded for the program.

Brooks was hired on Feb. 15, 1998, to spearhead the HotSpot program by developing short- and long-term programs to attack crime.

Hagerstown's HotSpot area is a rectangular section of the city stretching from Prospect Avenue to Memorial Boulevard and bounded on the east and west by Prospect Street and Mulberry Street.

Also marking a one-year anniversary is the Hagerstown City Police street crimes unit, formed as a response to increasing crime in the HotSpot area.

Within the past 16 months there have been at least seven shootings in the Jonathan Street area, which is considered the focus of the local HotSpot program.

"We found out that after a year of assessing we need to come back to morals and values," she said.

Part of Brooks' solution over the coming year is to implement the nationwide program, Character Counts! which is designed to foster character development in young people from 5 to 18 years old. It was created by the Character Counts! Coalition, Marina del Ray, Calif.

The program focuses on six qualities determined by the coalition to be "pillars of character.'' They are: respect, responsibility, citizenship, caring, fairness and trustworthiness, said Brooks.

"It's a holistic approach" that will include community projects and involve schools, churches and area groups, she said.

"We want to be a community where character counts," she said.

The first step will be to place colorful banners emblazoned with the pillars of character words, out on the streets in the HotSpot area, she said.

"My feeling is that it will be uncomfortable for the drug dealers to be selling their drugs under these banners. I want to annoy them out of town," she said.

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