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Federal grant money might fund gang-fighting cop in city

January 23, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council plans to discuss today using grant money to fund a police officer who would head Hagerstown's anti-gang unit, a position that would be paid for with money from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office distributed $1.5 million last month across Maryland to combat gang activity, said Marcy Murphy, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman. Of that amount, Washington County received about $111,920, she said.

Smith said Hagerstown will get roughly half - about $55,000 - of Washington County's share of the grant to pay the anti-gang unit officer's salary and benefits for 18 months.

The remainder of the grant is earmarked to fund education programs that are focused on preventing gang activity in other parts of the county, he said.

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The council could decide during its work session today whether Hagerstown needs the anti-gang officer, Smith said. If the council gives its approval, the police department will move an experienced officer into that position. A new officer would be hired to fill the spot left vacant by the anti-gang officer, he said.

Hagerstown doesn't have a lot of gang activity, Smith said, but sometimes gang members who are released from nearby prisons choose to settle in the city.

"This is a gang-prevention strategy," he said. "This (grant) will help Hagerstown from getting gangs."

Although the 18-month grant became effective Jan. 1, Smith said he is hopeful the City Council will decide to continue funding the anti-gang officer.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he would like to retain the anti-gang officer on the payroll after the grant expires, if money permits.

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