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Martinsburg business leaders discuss police presence, parking

November 16, 2000

Martinsburg business leaders discuss police presence, parking



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - A greater police presence downtown and working to improve parking were among the issues brought up at a meeting of downtown business people and others Thursday night.

The focus of the discussion was a survey completed by 221 people that was coordinated by Main Street Martinsburg.

Among the main concerns of people downtown was cleaning it up and "getting rid of loiterers," which some felt could be accomplished by having a more visible police presence.

"You want to get retailers to stay open at night and to do that you need more traffic and that means you have to make people feel safe," said Carson Anderson of Cherry Properties.

Numerous ideas were floated about having police officers on foot patrolling downtown, although other concerns were raised about harassing people who are on the street and understaffing issues with the police department.

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Tracie Ford, executive director of Main Street Martinsburg, also noted that "a lot of the people you see are people who are living downtown."

She added: "One of our long-range goals is to have more upscale living downtown."

Several people in the audience noted that crime has decreased and the number of people wanting to live in downtown Baltimore has increased with a greater emphasis on community policing with officers on the street.

The group suggested that a greater police presence during the day and into the evening hours would be welcome.

Members of the group also are studying the issue of parking, including having merchants validate parking for customers or eliminating parking meters.

City Councilman Roger Lewis said parking revenue totals about $130,000 annually and it takes about $72,000 to collect that money. Other people said parking is not a key issue because spots are usually available.

That could be traced to another problem pointed out in the survey.

"...most respondents don't normally shop for many items downtown," the survey said. "Let's be honest. We don't have that many retail businesses downtown."

Ford said there are about 200 businesses in the 55-block downtown core.

The group will take other actions to get people into the core, using the information gleaned to attract the kind of businesses people said they want, like a bakery and more restaurants.

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