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HotSpot-area residents hope cleanup also deters drug dealers

May 15, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

As they picked up cigarette butts and pulled weeds in their neighborhood on Saturday, Jonathan Street-area residents hoped their actions would help clean up their community in a different way as well.

Carolyn W. Brooks, who helped organize the spring cleanup, said a visible presence by area residents deters the drug dealers who often control the street corners.

"If we're busy in the streets, they're not going to be hanging out," said Brooks, coordinator of Hagerstown's HotSpot program.

The HotSpot Communities Initiative, which was launched in Hagerstown two years ago, is a state program to curb violence by synchronizing police, social service agencies and neighborhood groups in high-crime areas.

The Jonathan Street area has been the site of six shootings this year.

The cleanup, organized by the Community Mobilization Committee, a group inspired by the HotSpot effort, has become an annual event. Volunteers worked a two-block stretch of Jonathan Street, from Bethel Street to North Avenue.

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"We want these streets to be clean," said John Kelly, one of about 125 volunteers wearing bright yellow HotSpot T-shirts. "Hopefully, we can do this on an every day basis."

Children made up many of the volunteers on Saturday.

"It was trashy, and we needed to do it," said James Jackson, 10, who lives on Summer Street.

Tony Weedon, 12, who lives on Bethune Avenue, said he thinks it is important to take pride in the neighborhood.

"People these days just don't care. They litter too much," he said.

Anthony Carter, 41, a new arrival to the neighborhood, said he played a large role in his last community in Oxon Hill, Md.

Carter, who delivers books for the Montgomery County library system, said he moved to Hagerstown about six months ago for a calmer life. He drives about 2 1/2 hours every day back and forth from Rockville, Md.

"It's worth the drive," he said.

Carter, who bought his home on West Bethel Street through Hagerstown's home ownership program, said he does not think crime is as bad some of his neighbors think.

"There's no inner city in Hagerstown - yet," he said. "I think we're going to make it."

Not everyone was as upbeat, however.

Bethel Gardens resident Pam Meadows, who participates in a neighborhood watch in her community, said she hopes activities like the cleanup will improve the area. But she said she hasn't noticed a big change in the last two years.

Meadows said residents have grown frustrated by the inability of police to expel out-of-town hoodlums.

"It's like the drug dealers have more rights than we do," she said.

But Brooks said things are on the upswing. She said the response to Saturday's cleanup is one sign. Another is the increasing calls reporting suspicious activity to the Hagerstown Police Department.

"Residents are taking a more active part in the community," she said.

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