Head of Special Crimes Unit enjoys thrill of the chase

August 12, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Editor's note: This is the seventh in a weekly series spotlighting local heroes who work to give comfort to victims of tragedy, and save lives and property.

There's nothing like arresting a drug dealer, Hagerstown Police Sgt. Curtis Wood says.

"The thrill of chasing him down and taking him down ... and taking a guy who's slinging a virus off the street," he said. "That's the one time you know you're really making a difference."

As head of the police department's Street Crimes Unit, Wood is part of many arrests of suspected drug dealers and buyers.

The unit, which focuses on undercover stings of street-level drug dealers and buyers as well as prostitution stings, made about 450 arrests on drug charges in 2001, he said. Wood has been head of the special unit for about two years, and a member of the unit since 1997.


"They do a pretty dangerous job," Police Chief Arthur Smith said. "Just about every day they have a foot chase with someone who's going to go to jail."

"There's always the unknown," Wood said. "You like to think of Hagerstown as Mayberry, but everybody has big-city crime now."

Wood, 36, always knew he wanted to be a police officer.

His father, Paul Wood, was a Hagerstown police officer for about 33 years, including eight years as chief of the department. Now, Paul Wood is police chief in North Edgewood, Pa.

"He was my hero," Curtis Wood said of his father.

While growing up in Hagerstown's West End, Wood would listen to a police scanner as his father led the force's special response team at emergencies.

"Then he'd come home and I'd hit him with 50 questions," he said.

Wood entered the police academy one month after graduating from North Hagerstown High School in June 1984.

He said "it was weird" being on the same force as his father early in his career.

"The biggest problem was getting out of his shadow," Wood said.

"But it was never an option of not making it (onto the police force)," he said. "I knew that it was a self-gratifying job. What it would be like when you make a difference and you know you're making a difference."

There was also the camaraderie of the officers that he saw while growing up.

"In the old days, it was one big family. It's not so much like that anymore, times change, but it's like that in the (special units)," Wood said.

In addition to heading up the Street Crimes Unit, Wood is a member of the Special Response Team and teaches in the department's Western Maryland Police Academy.

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