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Cruising crackdown hits a few bumps

August 10, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Cruising crackdown hits a few bumps



Nearly five months after kicking off a plan to reduce cruising and loitering along Dual Highway, Hagerstown City Police said their efforts have mixed results.

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In March, the department requested business owners along the highway to post "no trespassing" signs so officers who witness people loitering in parking lots can issue criminal summonses that can result in a fine or other penalties.

Police also planned to increase enforcement along Dual Highway for traffic offenses, loud stereos, public drinking and reckless driving.

Despite more than 100 citations issued as a result of the enforcement effort, Hagerstown City Police Chief Arthur Smith said, "It could have worked better."

He said police received cooperation from some business owners along Dual Highway but more need to participate.

Smith said the police department will reevaluate their plans to address the problem over the winter months when cruising is less common because of the weather.

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"This year we nudged things in the right direction but we haven't solved the problem," said Smith.

Dual Highway Taco Bell Manager Tammy Monroe said she hasn't noticed much of a change since March.

"I think it's remained the same," she said.

On weekends, the business' lot is filled with youths being loud, she said. Littering and property damage from drivers backing into signs also remains a problem.

She said city police have been responsive to regular requests by employees to clear Taco Bell's lot of loiterers.

Monroe said she thinks their best defense against the problem may be for Taco Bell to hire a security guard to monitor the property from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Mark Levine owns six McDonald's restaurants in Washington County, including two on Dual Highway. He said he hasn't experienced difficulties with disruptive youths remaining on his property.

He said the summer's frequent evening rain storms may have put a damper on Hagerstown's cruising scene.

If police can't end cruising they will focus on monitoring people's conduct, said Smith.

Smith said he feels people have a right to drive around the city as they wish as long as they obey traffic laws and don't trespass or become destructive.

Unlike other municipalities, Hagerstown does not have an ordinance preventing drivers from cruising Dual Highway a specific number of times in a given time frame.

Smith said police cracked down on drivers with loud stereos, which has been the cause of complaints throughout the city, erratic driving and disruptive activities.

"We believe we've had an impact on they way people behave," he said.

"Cruising has been going on a long time. We haven't stopped it but we may have improved (the situation) a little," said Smith.

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