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2 streets see crime hike

July 30, 2000

2 streets see crime hike



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


Bonnie Errico has trouble sleeping in her home in the first block of East Franklin Street in Hagerstown because of shouting, noise and violence in the street, she said.

Just a block away, a man was stabbed in an fight last week, according to police.

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"It didn't used to be like this," she said.

The city has seen an increase in drug dealing and disruptive behavior in the area of East Franklin and North Mulberry streets in the past six months, said Hagerstown City Police Captain Charles Summers.

Summers said the Street Crimes Unit made seven drug and disturbance-related arrests in the East Franklin and North Mulberry streets area last week.

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Seven arrests in one week for that area of the city is high, said Hagerstown Sgt. Mark Holtzman.

Six months ago police typically made one or two arrests in a week there, he said.

Summers attributes the jump in crime in part to recent evictions of residents from city-owned properties in other areas of Hagerstown.

Many of residents who were kicked out for alleged criminal activities are finding places to live on East Franklin and North Mulberry streets, he said.

Also, he said, more drug dealers are coming into the area from New York and Florida and have made the East Franklin and North Mulberry street area their base.

Many of the buildings are rentals which can be a problem for the community if landlords aren't careful, said Summers.

Summers believes the landlords have to do a better job. Tenants aren't always well-screened and out-of-town landlords may not be aware of criminal behavior going on in their buildings, he said.

Discarded trash blows along East Franklin Street near the intersection with Mulberry Street. Weeds grow in cracks along the sidewalk and the neighborhood has an air of decline.

Once stately homes and apartment buildings have been allowed to deteriorate. Missing shingles, chipped paint and rotting porches can be seen.

Terra-cotta pots filled with flowers and festive flags are displayed at a few well-kept homes.

At night, groups of rowdy teenagers often sit on the front steps of Errico's home without her permission, she said. In the morning she has to clean up their trash and wash away graffiti.

"It drives me crazy," she said.

Calls to police bring out patrols; however, the disorderliness continues, she said.

Mary Mowery, whose daughter lives on Mulberry Street, said she has witnessed what she believes to be drug deals in the neighborhood and worries about her grandchildren growing up there.

"It's gotten so much worse," she said.

North Mulberry Street resident Jim Rinehart said he is disgusted with the neighborhood the way it is now.

"I want my neighborhood back the way it was when I moved here," which was more than 20 years ago, he said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II has said he has noticed problems in that area "intensifying" lately.

Hagerstown City Police plan to attack crime in the neighborhood by coming down hard on alleged drug dealers as well as those causing disturbances, Summers said.

The Street Crimes Unit will continue its regular drug stings, targeting both dealers and users in the East Franklin and North Mulberry street area, he said.

"We're going to use all the tools at our disposal," Summers said.

That includes enforcing traffic offenses; giving citations for public drinking and public decency; ticketing for excessive noise and cracking down on skateboards and bicycles being driven on sidewalks, he said.

These actions will send a clear message to drug dealers that Hagerstown is tough on crime, he said.

"If dealers come to an area and see a guy standing on a corner drinking a beer he's going to know that some illegal activity is tolerated and feel this is a good place to do business," said Summers.

"We want to encourage those people (criminals) to leave the neighborhood or change their ways," said Summers.

The installation of Sgt. Curt Wood as the commander of the Street Crimes Unit will help with the effort, he said.

"He'll energize things," Summers said.

Residents need not worry that the Jonathan Street area will be neglected with all of the emphasis being placed on East Franklin and North Mulberry streets, Summers said.

"We have a lot of irons in the fire and we are going to try and juggle them the best we can," he said.

Residents can help police make a difference by calling with complaints and observations of suspicious activity, he said.

"We're going to continue to work on the problem. It's (change) not going to happen overnight," he said.

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