New city officer takes to the streets

October 24, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

As Hagerstown's community police officer, Gerald Kendle wants to help residents of the Jonathan Street area take back their neighborhood.

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"I think of this as my neighborhood, too. And I want to clean it up as much as they (residents) do," he said.

Kendle replaced Sgt. John Ryder as community police officer in the crime-plagued neighborhood earlier this month. The position is funded by a $34,000 grant and $8,500 in city matching funds and is part of the HotSpots Communities anti-crime initiative.

His job is to patrol the neighborhood on foot and be available for calls for service, said Hagerstown City Police Lt. Margaret Kline.


"I have to establish trust and a rapport" so residents feel safe on their streets and comfortable reporting suspicious behavior, said Kendle, 34, of Hagerstown.

Kendle is assigned to patrol Jonathan, Church and Charles streets as well as areas between Potomac and Prospect streets.

By pounding the pavement he will be able to identify areas with frequent criminal activity and pay them particular attention, said Kline.

His role in the community will be "to forge a close relationship with the neighborhood to identify and work on their problems," she said.

"It's more personalized service," said Kline.

Officer Kendle has a "great demeanor," which will enable him to develop trust within the community through daily contact, said Mayor Robert E. Bruchey.

Bruchey said Kendle should have a significant impact on the Jonathan Street area.

Kendle's patrol of the area will supplement regular police staffing, said Kline.

His shifts will vary, and he will attend numerous neighborhood public meetings to get acquainted with residents and stay on top of issues of concern.

Kline said Kendle, who previously worked as a downtown foot patrol officer, was selected for the job based on his six years of police experience and "personal communication skills."

Kendle said he applied for the position because he enjoys working with the public, particularly children.

The role of the community police officer is a challenge he relishes because of the positive influence he can have, said Kendle, who was a Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor for the city police.

"I liked the idea of being part of something bigger than the department," he said.

Kendle said he already is familiar with many of the children along his beat who had taken his DARE classes.

Walking along Park Avenue last week, Kendle was approached by many children with smiles and greetings.

Mercedes Shaffer, 8, and Nyoka Scott, 13, sweetly asked for candy.

"I like him. He's nice," said Scott.

She said she hopes Kendle will be able to keep drug dealers and violent people away from her neighborhood.

Kendle said the residents will see him not just on patrol and making arrests but also helping out with homework at the Martin Luther King community center and involved in community activities.

"He's a good addition to the community, and the kids love him," said center Director Ruth Monroe.

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