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Residents: Jonathan Street is quieter

December 18, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Longtime residents of Hagerstown's Jonathan Street area shadowed by the Coca-Cola bottling plant said their neighborhood used to be a quiet one.

Now, one year removed from the Dec. 14 street-side slaying of Carl Anthony Wallace, residents say it's starting to become a peaceful area once again - thanks largely to city police and public cameras.

Several residents said Monday they feel safer around their homes than they did a year ago. They said drug activity and violence has become a rarity, something that seemed unlikely during more turbulent times that took hold of the neighborhood in the mid-1990s.

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John Preston, a Jonathan Street resident for two decades, said the drug trafficking that changed the environment of the area over the years has been less prevalent.

"This used to be a quiet neighborhood until drugs took over," Preston said. "I'd say it's starting to get quiet again."

Twenty-year resident JoAnn Claybon attributed the change to more active policing.

"They come when you call them. They don't wait," Claybon said. "In the past, you'd make a phone call, and they wouldn't come for 20 minutes."

Others said they believe the factor that has played the biggest role in reducing crime in 2003 was the installation of cameras in what was deemed a high-crime area.

"I feel safer, myself. It probably has a lot to do with the cameras," Evelyn Ford said. "When people commit crimes, they don't want to be seen."

Don Jones said he was skeptical at first, but now believes the cameras have been a tremendous asset for crime prevention.

"I think the cameras are doing their job," Jones said. "I didn't think they were going to do anything, but when they put them up, they started catching people and it was a different story."

Jones, who has lived at multiple Jonathan Street addresses and on Park Place during his lifetime, said Jonathan Street's crime started to be at its worst in the mid-1990s.

"You couldn't walk down the street without hearing someone firing" a handgun, Jones said.

He said conditions also were unsafe at the beginning of this decade.

The Dec. 14, 2002, shooting of Wallace was the last of a flurry of high-profile crimes in the area.

On that date, police found Wallace lying on Jonathan Street near the intersection of Charles Street. Wallace was pronounced dead of multiple gunshot wounds.

Police have said Wallace moved to Hagerstown from Asbury Park, N.J., six weeks before the shooting, to be with his girlfriend, Takima Nicole White.

By February, cameras were installed on Jonathan Street and that same month, police began around-the-clock surveillance as a crime deterrent.

The Hagerstown Police Department used funding from a grant, the housing authority and Bethel Gardens Corp. to launch the program in the neighborhood.

The digital images captured by the nine cameras in the area are admissible in court, according to officials.

Several officials said they believe the cameras have helped reduce crime there.

Don Jones said he was fortunate not to have been in harm's way the night Wallace died, although he was dangerously close.

"I just rode by that spot two minutes before it happened," Jones recalled. "Being so close to my house and having a little girl, I was upset."

Ford's apartment is one of the closest to the site of the shooting. On Monday, she said she was too afraid to even look out the window to see what was happening on the Saturday morning of the shooting.

"I just remember hearing the gunshots and loud voices. It was terrifying," Ford said.

Police allege that Karim Ali Ward, of Frederick, Md., shot Wallace in the 400 block of North Jonathan Street during a street fight between Ward's friend and Wallace's girlfriend.

In July, New York Police Department officers arrested Ward in connection with the incident.

Ward is scheduled for a Feb. 2, 2004, trial in Washington County Circuit Court on charges of first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, use of a handgun in a crime of violence and carrying a handgun, court records say.

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