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'Dead spots' hinder Hancock police Crime Call program

November 11, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

HANCOCK - The Hancock cell phone program will continue even though reception problems have kept it from working as expected, Police Chief Donald Gossage said Thursday.

The cell phone, intended to make it easier for town residents to get in touch with police, doesn't work when officers are outside their cars downtown or at town hall, Gossage said.

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The nine-month-old Crime Call program is hampered by "dead spots," areas in the town where the phones donated by Cellular One of Hagerstown experience reception problems, he said.

He said the phones don't ring when officers are downtown or at police headquarters in Town Hall on High Street.

The phones themselves are great, Gossage said, but there were cell phone service problems in Hancock before the program began.

Cellular One had no comment Thursday but probably will make a statement next week, a spokeswoman said.

When he started the program in March, Gossage had said stickers with the phone's number would be distributed to the town's 2,000 residents.

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Pressed at Wednesday's Town Council meeting by former Councilwoman Glorious Sagle, Gossage said the stickers have not been distributed because officials first want to try to resolve the phone problems.

He said Thursday the phone number will be distributed on keychains, magnets and stickers within a few months.

The phone number, 301-331-0911, has been printed in newspapers and many residents cut that out and put it on their refrigerators, Gossage said.

It is worth continuing the program because officers can receive phone calls in the cruisers, which have boosters that increase the phone's reception, and in other parts of town, he said.

The phone has helped police on a number of occasions, including at accident scenes, during a snow storm last winter and with a search for a missing person, Gossage said.

By calling the cell phone number, residents ideally would bypass the county dispatcher for nonemergency calls and directly contact a town police officer.

When the cell phone doesn't work, however, residents instead get a recording asking them to leave a message, he said.

Residents should continue to use the county 911 system for emergencies, Gossage said.

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