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Crime concerns

Community unites in National Night Out event

Community unites in National Night Out event

August 02, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - As their children played with balloons and drank sodas, area residents at a National Night Out event said they worried about crime in their communities.

One day after a fatal shooting on East Franklin Street, some people who turned out at a community gathering at Memorial Recreation Center expressed wariness about their Hagerstown neighborhoods.

"A lot of things are going on in this area. There's a lot of drug trafficking, a lot of shootings. I didn't even let my kids go outside yesterday because of a shooting," said LaQuana Ellis, 31, as she watched over her two small children.

About a hundred people, including many children, participated in Tuesday night's National Night Out event. Police officers and representatives from organizations such as the Washington County Health Department and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also took part in the crime- and safety-awareness event.

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National Night Out was designed to bring communities together and deter crime, said Carolyn Brooks, coordinator of C-SAFE, which organized the event this year.

The police department alone cannot make the streets safer, Brooks said. The police need the help of the community, she said.

According to Ron Lytle, who has lived in Hagerstown for 12 years, the city continues to make strides in dealing with crime.

"I think they're headed in the right direction, but I think they just need to buckle down and put more dollars toward the children," said Lytle, who cares for two of his four granddaughters during the summer. He said children need more activities to keep them on a positive path.

Other residents echoed Ellis' concerns about crime, and they said they believe the streets of Hagerstown are becoming more dangerous. Some called for a stronger police presence and more cameras.

"I've been on Jonathan Street all my life, and I still feel safe. I think when you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, that's when you don't feel as safe as you used to feel," said Tara Kelly, a 42-year-old grandmother whose grown daughters live in apartment complexes where two separate slayings took place in recent months.

Kelly said she tries to take precautions to stay safe. She said she does not like to walk around her neighborhood on Friday and Saturday nights, and when the wrong crowd is out, she said she goes inside.

"Stay close to home and raise your children, and I feel you'll be a lot better off," said Kelly, who went to the event with three of her grandchildren.

For Ellis, who said she moved to the area as a teenager in 1991 from New York, Hagerstown is starting to feel a little too much like home.

"You never know, you know? You can be standing anywhere and anything can happen, I think ... in this neighborhood, too," Ellis said. She said she worries about her children, ages 4 and 7, being caught in the crossfire, and she said she feels no safer than she did in New York.

"It seems like I'm right at home out here. Things have changed here a lot," she said.

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