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Project Ceasefire doesn't get results police hoped for

June 20, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

Last fall, Hagerstown City Police had a bold idea to offer reward money as part of a campaign, Project Ceasefire, to rid the city's Westview Housing Development of illegal handguns.

That campaign, which was funded with a $40,000 state grant, didn't result in the hoped-for dividends.

"The flyers went up but we got no calls so we scrubbed it," said Lt. Gary Spielman, who administered Project Ceasefire. The reward for information about anyone unlawfully in possession of a handgun was set at $100.

Despite the disappointment, Spielman said the money secured from the Maryland Department of State Police Cease Fire Counsel Grant for the project was put to good use.

"We have been using it to pay overtime to officers and detectives working on any crime involving handguns and that's been paying off," Spielman said Wednesday.

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The success has prompted the police to apply for a $61,702 grant from the same agency. Hagerstown City Council gave its blessing Tuesday for the re-application.

Calls have diminished for all such crimes in Hagerstown with the one exception of armed robberies, which are on the rise, Spielman said.

Between October 2001 and April 2002, there were 12 weapons seized, 22 arrests for weapons violations, 18 illegal possession investigations and four shooting investigations, Spielman said.

In addition, calls coming in to the Washington County Narcotics Task Force about illegal possession of firearms by drug dealers and other criminals are being investigated as overtime funding from the grant allows.

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