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Police anticipate more juvenile crime

June 02, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

As the end of the school year approaches, area law enforcement officers are preparing to deal with increases in juvenile crime.

Sgt. Shawn Tasker, acting chief of the Hancock Police Department, and Capt. Douglas Mullendore of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said summer generally is a time of increased juvenile crime in their jurisdictions.

Tasker said past problems caused the Hancock department and the town to make several changes, including officers' schedules.

"We work officers later in the summertime because (juveniles) are usually out later," Tasker said.

Tasker said that the town in recent years has implemented a midnight curfew for anyone younger than 18, and the department has increased its involvement in youth-focused programs in what he believes has been a successful effort to reduce youth crime.

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"Police are getting to know kids a little better than we did in the past," Tasker said. "It lets the kids that want to let us know what's going on know that they can trust us a little better."

One town that has had an ongoing problem with juvenile crime is Smithsburg.

During Smithsburg Town Council meetings in the last two years, Smithsburg Police Department Chief Michael Potter repeatedly has said the town has a high juvenile crime rate. Potter has said the criminal activity is driven by factors such as a lack of activities for teens in the community.

Potter was not available for comment Wednesday.

Mullendore said teens in the county simply "need things to do."

"All you have to do is drive out to the Martin's parking lot on Dual Highway and you can see a lot of kids hanging out," Mullendore said. "They want to hang out with their friends and find things to do ... and activities are limited."

Mullendore said an important advance in reducing juvenile crime in the county would be forming a group made up of authorities, residents, and Washington County Board of Education and town officials to plan "more community events geared at kids."

Mullendore said he believes measures such as opening schools at night, so children would have a safe place for activities such as playing basketball or volleyball, would be a great help.

"As more and more people move into the community, it's going to compound itself," Mullendore said. "We need to address it now."

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