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Hagerstown chief's proposal would prohibit public parties with alcohol

December 06, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith on Tuesday introduced to the City Council a proposal that would prohibit underground parties within city limits.

Underground parties, or parties that are open to the public and serve alcohol without a license, have created a problem for the police department over the past few months, Smith said. At an underground party in the first block of West Washington Street, for example, a man suffered a nonfatal stab wound.

"That kind of thing causes us problems," he said. "(The parties) don't end until 4 or 5 in the morning."

The police can break up underground parties if alcohol is being sold, Smith said. But in some cases, when people bring their own alcohol to the parties, the police have no authority. The ordinance would prohibit underground parties whether the alcohol is sold or carried in, he said.

Smith said the ordinance is designed to improve public safety and take away a problem that could deter downtown development. In addition, the ordinance would give police the authority to hold the building owner accountable, he said.

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At this point, the proposed penalty would be a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail, Smith said.

Council members Lewis C. Metzner and Penny M. Nigh said they support the proposal.

"We're not looking for unlicensed places to have people bring their bottle to and drink," Metzner said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the council would address the issue by the end of January.

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