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Bruchey wants tougher policy on crime

April 22, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II is calling for the city police department to adopt a no tolerance for crime policy.

Implementing such a policy would mean focusing on less serious crimes such as littering and drinking in public, Bruchey said Wednesday.

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Under such a policy, someone who throws a cigarette on the ground would be arrested for littering, said Bruchey.

It is a very aggressive policy that would mean arresting more people and putting them in jail, he said.

"I'm sure it will (upset) a lot of judges and commissioners and overload the jails, but I have to worry about 36,000 residents," Bruchey said.

Officials at the Washington County Sheriff's Department, which oversees the county detention center, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"Drastic times call for drastic measures," Bruchey said.

The theory behind such policies is that by focusing on minor offenses, police can prevent more serious crimes, Bruchey said.

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During a separate interview, City Police Chief Dale J. Jones declined to comment on Bruchey's request specifically, saying he first wanted to see the mayor's proposal.

However, Jones discussed the no tolerance or zero tolerance policies of other municipalities.

"The theory is that when you crack down on more minor crimes, they (the offenders) will be many of the same people who commit felonies," Jones said.

Bruchey said he has quietly been asking for a no tolerance policy for a year.

Two shootings on Jonathan Street in downtown Hagerstown last weekend prompted the mayor to renew his request.

Bruchey said he will draft a letter that will ask the police department to implement the policy. He said he hopes all City Council members will sign the letter.

"We're facing a long, hot summer and this is just the beginning," Bruchey said.

"I don't want to micro-manage the police department, but I think it's time to take the next step," he said.

Jones said city police officers already are doing some of what is considered zero tolerance enforcement.

Prostitution stings and reverse drug stings are examples, he said.

Jones said he would be willing to consider adopting a zero tolerance or no tolerance policy.

"It's something we would have to consider as a community," Jones said.

"There are many issues we have to be careful about," he said.

How zero tolerance would be defined, where the efforts of such a policy would be focused and how long it would be sustained are questions that would need to be answered, Jones said.

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