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Officials don't see increase in crime

August 07, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Although there were two shooting incidents in two days this week, elected officials with the City of Hagerstown contacted Friday do not believe those shootings represent an increase in crime or any lack in crime fighting.

"I don't think it's any kind of crime wave," Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said. What happened this week "appears to be a New York situation, and they've chosen our city as their OK Corral, if you will," he said.

A New York City man was shot in the foot on Wednesday when several .45-caliber bullets were fired in his direction about 5:30 p.m. He was walking in an alley near Jonathan and West Washington streets.

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On Thursday, two unknown shooters fired shots at each other near a playground and basketball court in the 400 block of Park Place. The 6:30 p.m. exchange did not result in any known injuries, but two stray bullets struck nearby homes.

The Hagerstown Mayor and City Council said that while the shootings were unsavory, they did not believe crime was on the rise and they did not believe the shootings meant there were any lapses in crime fighting. They also affirmed their support for local law enforcement.

Councilwoman Carol N. Moller said that although the number of sworn police officers was reduced by six positions this year to 99, "they have done a super job of covering territory."

"If (police) feel at any time (funding is) inadequate, they'd be the first to tell us and we'd be the first to respond," Moller said. "If they felt they couldn't handle something, they would tell us."

The officials said that efforts by Hagerstown City Police, including downtown bicycle patrols, plans for more downtown security cameras and continued efforts to target drug-related crime with search warrants and informant-based activity, have kept violent crime to a minimum.

"The police, they really know what's happening," Moller said.

Officials who were contacted Friday also affirmed the belief that violent crimes such as those this week do not originate in Hagerstown, but elsewhere.

"We're constantly aware of the drug element that's in town - the dealers, the individuals from out of town that are coming here," Mayor William M. Breichner said.

It's not only up to police to keep violent crime out of the community, but those who live in the city who are aware of illegal activity, Breichner and others said.

"What we have to do is identify individuals who are not from here and isolate them ... people, especially from the New York area, who come down here to deal drugs with guns," Metzner said.

Breichner called for a speedy conclusion to the investigation.

"Just the fact that it's in the city is scary to us, and we don't want to see it and need to bring it to a quick conclusion to demonstrate that we don't like seeing that kind of thing happening here," Breichner said.

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