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Turnout low for public safety seminar

August 23, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The message of local law enforcement and social service agencies was clear Thursday: This is what happens when you sell or are addicted to drugs and these are the programs available to help you back on your feet.

The only part missing was the public the message was geared toward.

Most of the 45 people who attended the public safety seminar at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater were members of the agencies represented in the seminar.

The event was sponsored by the HotSpots Communities Initiative, and its goal was to educate the public about the services various local agencies offer and to promote communication between them, according to a press release.

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Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said he was disappointed with the turnout.

"We are talking to the choir," Breichner said. "We're not talking to the citizens..."

The two-hour seminar used fictitious characters to show the legal consequences facing dealers and addicts and the services offered to lead them from a life of crime.

In this scenario, a drug dealer, Dennis, is a 17-year-old who moves in part-time with Linda, a 19-year-old Hagerstown woman who has a small child named Dorsey.

Linda pays rent with help from a federal subsidy, and takes cash and crack cocaine from Dennis in return for a place to stay.

After Linda smokes a good deal of his crack cocaine one night, Dennis beats her up and she is sent to the hospital and the police are called.

Washington County Sheriff's Department chief deputy, Capt. Douglas Mullendore, said in a real-life situation, Linda would have been questioned, a warrant would have been issued to search her home and an investigation would have been under way to bust Dennis.

Linda eventually would end up losing custody of Dorsey and would be sentenced to serve time in the Washington County Detention Center. Dennis would be charged as an adult with distribution of crack cocaine and possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, and be sent to state prison for eight years.

Various agencies, including CASA, a local agency that combats domestic violence; the Washington County Health Department; the Department of Social Services; the Maryland State Police and Hagerstown City Police were on hand to explain the roles each would play in such a scenario.

Hagerstown Police Chief Art Smith said residents can learn more about the services provided by the groups by attending the Citizens Academy, which runs from Sept. 5 through Nov. 14.

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