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Interim police chief Bellomy takes a community approach

September 10, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Terry Bellomy said he wants to see more community policing at the Shepherdstown Police Department, where officers routinely talk to local business owners about happenings in town, and use bicycle patrols that can allow officers to better survey some areas of town.

Bellomy said he will offer town residents the opportunity to inform the police department when homeowners go out of town so the police department can check on the homes periodically to make sure they are secure.

Bellomy took over the police department as interim chief following the departure of former police Chief Curtis Keller and two other officers.

Keller left the department last month after he and Mayor Lance Dom could not resolve their "differences in outlook," Dom has said.

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Bellomy's try at the job follows a tough history at the police department.

Some people in town believe the police department in the past has not respected them, and some business owners feel the department does not understand them. There also have been allegations of police using excessive force in town, and differences have surfaced between town hall and the police chief over how the department should be run.

Bellomy arrives with a seemingly fresh outlook on the police department and downplays the notion that dealing with residents in Shepherdstown is different than anywhere else.

Bellomy said the police department needs to have well-rounded officers who can talk to anyone.

"People are people," Bellomy said in a telephone interview. "As long as we are doing our job, it shouldn't matter."

Bellomy, who has worked for the police department for about 18 months, has also worked as a K-9 handler for the Martinsburg Police Department and as a federal police officer for the Department of Defense at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.

Bellomy said he wants to work with the town on resolving crime and other problems in the community.

He added that bicycle patrols not only allow officers to keep a closer eye on the town, but they can help foster a rapport with youths, who sometimes feel separated from police.

"I think it puts the town more at ease as to what the police department is," Bellomy said of a community policing approach.

Bellomy's department is charged with protecting a bustling town that is home to Shepherd University.

There have been rumors in town that gang members have been showing up at night and mingling with local youths.

The suspected gang members have been around "the wall," a popular congregating area in front of McMurran Hall on German Street, Bellomy said. Sometimes, the suspected gang members park somewhere in town and walk around, Bellomy said.

There is a possibility that the gang members are associated with MS-13, Bellomy said. MS-13 has been considered one of the most violent street gangs and members have been showing up in Jefferson County, police have said in recent years.

Youths can be attracted to the gangs, which sometimes lure them with gifts, like new tennis shoes, police said.

Bellomy said certain youths, like Shepherd University students, can be a "free market" to gang members because they can be easily influenced.

Despite the possible presence of gang members in town, Bellomy said he does not think residents should be overly alarmed.

"We're going to stay on top of it," Bellomy said.

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