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Cooperative spirit prevails at meeting

Nearly 100 residents of the Cascade/Fort Ritchie area met with law enforcement officials to discuss crime problems in the area o

Nearly 100 residents of the Cascade/Fort Ritchie area met with law enforcement officials to discuss crime problems in the area o

October 23, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - When Tuesday night's crime awareness meeting between law enforcement and nearly 100 Cascade/Fort Ritchie area residents was over, many stood in line to sign up for a neighborhood watch group.

"I'm willing to sign up and be a block captain," said Sgt. Jeff Gilchrist, who with his wife, Elizabeth, lives in the middle of Cascade.

New to the area, the Gilchrists both spoke at the public meeting at the Germantown Church of God in Cascade that some had predicted would be heated. Instead, the spirit of cooperation prevailed.

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Organized by the Cascade Committee, the meeting drew Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades and three of his command officers, as well as Lt. Greg Johnston, barrack commander for the Maryland State Police, and 1st Sgt. Rick Narron.

"At one time, we had five deputies who lived on the base at Fort Ritchie," Mades said. Later, deputies patrolled Fort Ritchie and the surrounding area 35 hours a week, paid for by the U.S. Army, he said.

But now that the Army's presence has diminished, those situations no longer exist, Mades said.

"Now when we get a call in your area, we get there as soon as we can," he said.

Johnston echoed that sentiment, saying his troopers concentrate their time and efforts along the interstate corridors, where the bulk of the calls are centered.

"Last weekend, we handled 340 calls in Washington County and of those, three were in your area," Mades said.

Capt. Doug Mullendore said before 1998, all Washington County deputies used the indoor firing range at Fort Ritchie for their required training. While that was going on throughout the year, deputies were regularly coming and going from the area.

But he said that stopped at the end of 1999, when the PenMar Development Corp. wanted the deputies to pay $2,960 for the use of the facility.

Brett Wilson, chairman of the PenMar board of directors, explained that PenMar had very little income stream in 1999.

"We were just looking for users to pay the costs of heating and lighting the building," Wilson said by phone Tuesday night.

PenMar was created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1998 to redevelop the former base.

Alexis Gregson, who lives on Mountain Road at the former base, said there is a big crime problem in the area even if the numbers don't seem to bear that out.

"Our crime is just as important as the same crime happening in Hagerstown," Gregson said.

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