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Nearly 350 people attend Smithsburg's Night Out

Narcotics Task Force agent gives briefing on gangs

August 03, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Mike Simane, right, looks into the rear of a medevac helicopter that was on display at Veterans Park Tuesday in Smithsburg for National Night Out.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG -- In addition to free food, some water fun with the local fire department and a movie, people at Smithsburg's National Night Out also got a briefing on gang activity in Washington County.

Tuesday night's talk at Veterans Park came from Todd Dunkle, an agent with the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

Dunkle said he has recorded nearly 1,400 members in his county gang database. They come from groups like the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings and Dead Man Inc., also known as DMI.

Dunkle said he remembered when there were only a few dozen DMI members in the prisons on Sharpsburg Pike five or six years ago.

"Now we're dealing with over 1,000 documented members in the state of Maryland and in this region. And home base for most of these guys is here in Washington County," Dunkle said.

Dunkle said there are Bloods and DMI members in the Smithsburg area, but he told those gathered that the groups are not a big threat.

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"Some of the other communities, (we're) in an uphill battle," Dunkle.

One woman yelled a question to Dunkle, asking him if parents should be more aware of gang threats at the middle school level or the high school level.

Dunkle said it did not matter.

"I got kids as young as the fifth grade that are being classified as gang members," he said.

Apart from the serious discussion, the night was also about fun.

National Night Out is a national effort to bring people together to battle crime and strengthen community partnerships. Organizers of the Smithsburg event were happy that the crowd numbered nearly 350 people.

The Smithsburg Market donated 300 hot dogs, 300 hamburgers, drinks and other food for the free event, and the center of the park was buzzing with activity.

Children played a game offered by the Smithsburg Community Volunteer Fire Department in which a small water line shot a blast of water. The kids shot the stream across a patch of grass to knock down a wooden cutout of a fire.

Patty Shantz, a K-9 handler with the Hagerstown Police Department, showed the crowd how police dogs are used to detect drugs and apprehend suspects. Police also demonstrated how tazers are used to apprehend suspects.

"I live in such a great community," Marie Ganczarski said as she surveyed the activity from a picnic pavilion.

"There goes the helicopter," she said, motioning to a medevac helicopter that was leaving the park after being on display.

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