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Police say cameras would aid investigation

September 19, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Police Department has said it wants to install cameras near the Bethel Gardens substation, and the police chief says if the cameras had been in place Tuesday, they might have helped police track down the shooter who wounded a police officer.

"It would have given us a good investigative tool," Police Chief Arthur Smith said Wednesday. "It would give us both suspects and witnesses."

Police continued Wednesday to track down leads, field phone calls and question people in connection with the shooting that injured Sgt. George Knight early Tuesday.

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While out of his cruiser approaching two men at the rear of the 400 block of North Potomac Street, Knight, 46, received a grazing wound to the forehead when one of the two fleeing men fired a gun at him.

Knight returned fire but the two men escaped. Knight was treated at Washington County Hospital and released.

"We're getting calls and we're running everywhere," Smith said.

Smith said his officers were looking hard at an armed robbery that occurred earlier Tuesday and also involved two black males to determine if there might be a connection.

"It's a long shot but we're not ruling it out. I have three detectives on it rather than the one I would have under normal circumstances," the chief said.

Within 15 minutes after police arrived in the area of Tuesday morning's shooting, officers were pointing out that the proposed cameras would have been helpful in catching the shooter, Smith said.

The cameras would not have filmed the shooting because that happened in an alley, he said. But it might have caught people going to and from the alley, and officers might have been able to identify and then interview them, he said.

Smith's plan calls for installing seven cameras near the substation on Murph Avenue in the Bethel Gardens housing complex off Jonathan Street, Smith said.

The cameras would continuously record. They would be fixed in certain positions but officers sitting inside the substation would be able to rotate the cameras 360 degrees by using joysticks, Smith said.

Information caught on such cameras would be admissible in court, he said.

Smith said he won't decide whether to proceed with the project until he has secured the money needed and determines whether the community supports the idea.

Last week, the Hagerstown Housing Authority Board of Commissioners voted to pledge $25,000 to the Hagerstown Police Department for the camera program. Bethel Gardens pledged the same amount Wednesday, he said.

Smith said he thinks the program will cost about $75,000, so he must come up with an additional $25,000.

Once the funds are secured, Smith said he plans to go around the community to see if residents would support the concept.

He has not yet encountered opposition to the program, which would be modeled after one run by the Frederick Police Department, Smith said.

Staff writer Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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