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Chief says drug fight getting tough

March 14, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Hagerstown City Police Chief Arthur Smith exchanged ideas with members of the Jonathan Street community about the neighborhood's open air drug market and what do about it during a meeting of the Brothers United Who Dare to Care, Inc., Monday evening.

Smith said he was interested in continuing the police department's partnership with Brothers United, a community advocacy group for the Jonathan Street area.

Smith explained the police department's efforts to stem the tide of drug sales in Hagerstown. Nearly 50 people, including residents, clergy, social workers and members of area neighborhood and crime watch organizations, attended the meeting at the Martin Luther King Center on North Street.

In February a "flex squad" was created, under which at least one or two patrol officers on each shift are given the primary job of drug investigation in problem areas.

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Hagerstown police officers were given special training in the search and seizure and new drug laws.

Smith encouraged people to attend court hearings of drug dealers and to vehemently oppose a judge granting parole to a convicted drug felon.

Smith said the police are getting tougher on drug dealers by hitting them where they live. If a convicted dealer is living in public or Section 8 housing, he is evicted. If a person living in public or Section 8 housing harbors a convicted dealer, they are evicted.

The public can help the police crack down on crime in the Jonathan Street area by observing what is happening around them.

If a drug dealer is using a sidewalk in front of your home to make deals, watch them and write down their habits, Smith said.

He said information such as time of day the deals are made, where dealers keep their drugs and physical descriptions will help police make arrests.

Residents with tips about drug activity can call Sgt. John Ryder with the Hagerstown Police Department Street Crimes Unit at 301-739-8577, ext. 253, the Washington County Drug Task Force at 301-791-3205 or Smith at 301-739-8577, ext. 216.

Several residents at the meeting asked Smith whether a law could be passed requiring pit bull owners to muzzle their dogs when in public.

Smith said pit bulls are commonly the dog of choice of drug dealers because of their fierce reputation.

"A pit bull on a leash is the next best thing to having a gun" for a drug dealer, said Smith.

He said he would do some research to see if such a law is in effect elsewhere, and if so, if similar steps could be taken in Hagerstown.

People at the meeting suggested closing select roads in the Jonathan Street area at times as a way of reducing the drug trade.

Smith said since Jonathan Street is a major thoroughfare, that would not be possible.

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