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Police chief tells West End he'll put more cops on beat

February 16, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Hagerstown City Police Chief Arthur Smith told West End residents Wednesday he plans to put more officers on the street, including some that will work in specific areas.

"I like Hagerstown, but the city needs work. There are drug problems and juvenile problems," Smith told the approximately 25 people, including Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, at a meeting of the West End Neighborhood WATCH at the Salvation Army on George Street.

Smith said other cities the size of Hagerstown are experiencing the same problems.

"It's no cause to give up or panic. We just have to pull together," he said.

One way to do this would be to improve communication between the public and the police department, he said.

Smith said some restructuring will be done at the police department so that people in different areas of Hagerstown will have particular officers and supervisors they can go to with concerns.

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"It can be frustrating to call 911 for all police problems when not all are emergencies," he said.

Having specific officers familiar with specific areas provides continuity and a better relationship with the public, he said.

The officers would get to know their designated areas and those who live there and would understand the history behind different situations, he said.

Smith said the department plans to hire four officers in the upcoming months, once they complete training.

About 35 percent of the Hagerstown Police Department's officers will be eligible for retirement within a year, Officer Randy Rourke said.

Smith said he plans to increase patrols on city streets by hiring retired officers on a part-time basis to perform administrative duties.

This would free full-time officers for patrol and save the city money because the retirees would be paid per hour and would not receive benefits, he said.

He told the group that HotSpots money will be used to hire another officer dedicated to patrolling that high-crime area.

Smith said he intends to have bicycle patrol officers work in tandem throughout the HotSpot area.

The bike patrol will work flexible hours that will vary by day of the week, season and as needed for ongoing investigations.

Smith also discussed ways to reduce the West End's problems with rowdy teenagers and speeding. He said placing officers with radar at troublesome street corners would deter teens from congregating and crack down on speeding.

"It's a way of killing two birds with one stone," he said.

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