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Gang workshop set Feb. 16

February 02, 2006

Hagerstown is a nice place to live and as the metropolitan areas get more crowded, many are choosing to make this city their new home. Unfortunately, some are people we'd rather not see set up housekeeping here.

Who are these undesirables? They're members of street gangs who have been released from the state prison complex south of Hagerstown. Instead of going back to where they lived before their convictions, they choose to stay here.

So says Hagerstown Police Detective Todd Dunkle, a member of the city's Street Crimes Unit and Western region director for MARGIN (Mid-Atlantic Region Gang Investigators Network).

In a November interview with The Herald-Mail's Pepper Ballard, Dunkle said there are several hundred gang members in the area, mostly members of the Crips and the Bloods, both of which have ties to the New York area.

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In that same interview, Capt. Charles Summers, then the acting police chief, said there had been little evidence thus far of gang crime, either gang-versus-gang incidents or initiation-type offenses.

"That does not mean that we will wait until those crimes are committed," Summers said.

Both Summers and Dunkle said that one way to prevent such crimes is for members of the community to become aware of the signs of gang activity.

To help with that and to hear concerns residents may have about gang activity, there will be a Gang Awareness Workshop on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. at the Elgin Station Community Center at 40 Elgin Blvd. in Hagerstown.

The event is being sponsored by C Safe (formerly the Hagerstown HotSpot organization) and the Hagerstown Housing Authority.

Carolyn Brooks, C Safe director and a member of the newly formed Washington County Gang Task Force, said this workshop was requested by residents who attended a similar meeting last April.

It's important for residents to get involved because police can't be everywhere. When they're elsewhere, they need law-abiding citizens to be their eyes and ears.

If you have concerns, or feel you have something to contribute, please consider attending the Feb. 16 meeting.

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