Some residents say they're afraid crime might be increasing

August 06, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - When gunshots rang out Wednesday in an alley off Jonathan Street, Rochelle Jackson wasn't there to hear them.

But she felt as if she were.

"I'm worried about my daughter growing up in this," she said as her daughter, 2-year-old Malaysia, bit a sippy cup.

Jackson, 22, was among some Hagerstown residents interviewed downtown Thursday who said they're afraid crime might be on the rise in their neighborhoods.

But Hagerstown Police Department Chief Arthur Smith said that's not the case.

"Shootings are not up, murders are not up and crime's not up," Smith said.

He said that based on an FBI report on crime statistics for 2002 - the most recent year analyzed - Hagerstown had the lowest crime rate for "part one" crimes, which includes violent crimes, among Maryland cities of comparable size such as Annapolis, Frederick, Cumberland and Salisbury.


Among metropolitan areas around the country, Smith said Hagerstown had one of the lowest crime rates.

But what happened on Wednesday has made some residents uneasy.

At about 5:30 p.m., Arnold M. Davis, of New York City, was walking with a friend in an alley between West Franklin Street and West Washington Street, when he was shot in the foot by a man who fled in a car.

The shots rang out just a few feet from a bank and a county administration building.

"We're hard after the people that did this and they know it," Smith said.

"This shooting happened downtown, but it didn't have much to do with downtown," Smith said.

Hagerstown City Council member Lewis Metzner, who also is a criminal defense attorney, said that some violent crime in downtown seems to involve people coming from other areas, such as New York City.

A New York native who goes by the name "Brooklyn," 30, agreed that people from New York state are responsible for some of Hagerstown's crimes.

"It's not straight Hagerstown anymore," said Brooklyn, who lives on Summit Avenue.

Smith and Metzner said they hope that the upcoming installation of more surveillance cameras downtown will help reduce crime even more.

"Brooklyn" said he didn't believe that would be the case. "If you're a drug dealer and you see a camera, you're gonna move," he said.

Terry Knight, of Hagerstown, said he thinks crime has been moving around town more frequently.

"In the last couple of years, it's gotten a whole lot worse," said Knight, 52. "I know people who were robbed or assaulted, a lot of times in daylight hours."

Metzner said that the average citizen does not need to worry about getting caught in the middle of a violent crime.

"The risk of you being involved in violent crime is very, very low unless it's with someone you know," he said.

Brandi Trimmer isn't convinced.

Trimmer, 18, a High Street resident, said she was scared when she heard about the shooting.

"I can't even walk outside without wondering whether I'm gonna be shot or killed," she said.

Smith said that the police department would pursue the Wednesday gunman as hard as they've pursued similar assailants.

"You can't blame people for being upset, it's the most natural thing in the world," he said. "That's not to say that it's not scary what happened."

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