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Police plan to install cameras downtown

August 10, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

The actions of people who hang out on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Hagerstown will be captured on tape soon.

The Hagerstown Police Department is about to expand its use of surveillance cameras in an effort to help push crime out of the downtown area.

Hagerstown Police Department Chief Arthur Smith said that at least 12 surveillance cameras will be mounted and are expected to be operational by the end of August. Smith said the cameras will monitor activity within a few blocks each way of Public Square.

Obtaining additional cameras to monitor the streets has long been a priority for Smith and the department. Such cameras already are operating in the Jonathan Street area.

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"It gave peace to a lot of people on Jonathan Street. We're hoping to do the same downtown," Smith said.

The Hagerstown City Council in April approved spending $105,000 in grant money to install additional security cameras. The contract for the work was awarded to Simplex Grinell, a Hagerstown company.

Last year, cameras were put up along Jonathan Street following a series of high-profile crimes that included the Dec. 14, 2002, fatal shooting of Carl Anthony Wallace, of New Jersey. The police department and some Jonathan Street residents say they believe the cameras reduced crimes involving drugs and violence in that area.

Some residents of nearby neighborhoods such as Park Place, where several shots were fired Thursday within feet of a children's playground, say crime has increased in their areas since cameras went into use on Jonathan Street.

Smith said he believes the cameras ultimately will reduce crime even in areas not being monitored because officers no longer will be as busy in former high-crime areas.

"We'll actually have more police resources to deal with problems where they pop up," Smith said.

Smith said that as they did on Jonathan Street, the surveillance cameras likely will yield more arrests at first, and then will become more of a deterrent.

"It'll be common knowledge quickly, but we hope to surprise a few people at first," he said.

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