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Central booking facility is still a priority

January 15, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

The list of priorities for Washington County's police leaders in 2007 includes continuing the push to fund a Washington County central booking facility, hiring more law enforcement officers and getting methamphetamine legislation passed.

If funding is received during this year's Maryland General Assembly session, construction on a central booking facility in Washington County could begin this fall, Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.

Maryland State Police 1st Sgt. Jay Resh, the Hagerstown barracks' acting commander, said a central booking facility is needed to keep troopers and other law enforcement officers on patrol instead of having them tied up for hours on one arrest.

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"Central booking will go a long way" in terms of dealing with crime more efficiently, Mullendore said.

Resh, Mullendore and Hagerstown Police Department Chief Arthur Smith said they would push the state delegation and local government officials for funding to hire additional troopers, deputies and officers to meet the demands of the growing county.

Mullendore said he needs to assign deputies to gang enforcement this year and noted that the Hagerstown Police Department received a grant to hire a gang investigator.

Also, "Our part-time computer crimes unit, we're going to have to turn that into at least a full-time unit," Mullendore said.

"We're dealing with crimes that we've not seen before: Computer crimes - identity theft, fraud, child pornography - a lot of issues related to the Internet," Mullendore said.

State police in Hagerstown and the Sheriff's Department have a combined 108 officers while the Hagerstown Police Department has 103 sworn officers, officials said.

Smith said recruiting efforts have helped build up staff at his department, which had some vacancies in 2005.

He said he has plans to push for tougher legislation regarding methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine - a drug that has rarely shown up on local arrest records - is making its way to Maryland and the state is not prepared to fight it, Smith said.

Smith said he will push for legislation to include increased penalties for the drug's distribution and for legislation that would restrict the sale of some of its over-the-counter ingredients, called precursors, which are used to make the drug.

"We have the same challenges that we've had for a long time," he said. "We have a demand for drugs in this region. We have to battle the dealers who come down to deal them."

Smith said more cameras to monitor the downtown will be installed this year. The Downtown Bike Squad and existing cameras in downtown and in the Jonathan Street community already help police fight crime in the city, he said.

An excessive calls ordinance passed by the City Council a couple of months ago will help police weed out problem landlords and business owners, Smith said.

The excessive calls ordinance will create fines for "nuisance properties" that have excessive calls to the Hagerstown Police Department for violations such as prostitution, loitering and littering.

Resh said state police plan to step up speed enforcement in 2007.

"Any time you have fatals out here, so often, there's speed involved," he said. "Just their (troopers') presence will slow traffic down."

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