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Police agencies make plans in case sniper strikes here

October 22, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Washington County police agencies have met and made undisclosed plans to secure the area if the Washington, D.C.-area sniper strikes in the county.

Hagerstown City Police Chief Arthur Smith said Maryland State Police, the Washington County Sheriff's Department and Hagerstown City Police have met and are continuing to meet to discuss plans to secure the area if the sniper attacks here.

"If a shooting were to occur, we wouldn't have a lot of time to discuss it," Smith said.

Smith said he will prepare the departments if something happens, and that each of the agencies has responsibilities.

He said the departments are planning a low-key operation and he fears publicity of their plans would challenge the sniper to come to the area.

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"This guy obviously reads the paper and picks his targets and his locations," Smith said.

Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades said area residents need to use caution as they see fit, and paralleled recent fears with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying that people cannot shut down their lives because someone has been attacking the area.

He said the three primary police agencies are looking at resources available to them and are constantly communicating with and educating each other on information as it becomes available to them.

Mades said representatives from the agencies will meet again Thursday morning in his office to discuss further plans.

"We feel as comfortable as we can with what we have," Mades said. "We don't have what those large (metropolitan) communities have."

He said the agencies are handling each shooting call on a case-by-case basis, but warned that hunting season in Western Maryland has started and accidental shootings are likely to occur.

Mades said he hopes when people hear about a shooting over the police scanner, they use caution in assuming it is related to the sniper attacks.

Mades said he has police that work for him who are just as concerned about their families and their daily activities as the average citizen.

"I think it's on everybody's mind," he said.

Hagerstown is about 50 miles northeast of Gaithersburg, Md., where the closest sniper shooting has occurred.

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