New security cameras to record crime hot spots in Hagerstown

July 17, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Hagerstown Police Lt. Tom Langston looks at a live view of a security camera on a laptop computer at the intersection of Mitchell and Hammond avenues. A mobile security camera has been installed on a telephone pole in the west end neighborhood.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Tamara Hooper said she loved her Mitchell Avenue home when she bought it three years ago, but things have changed over the past year since thugs took over parts of the neighborhood.

She said drug dealers do business within sight of her front porch, and thieves have cut the locks off her gate and shed.

“I worked a long time to buy a house,” Hooper said. “I’ll be damned if I let some kids drive me out of it.”

Hooper and other residents who live in the area said Friday they hope the a security camera that the Hagerstown Police Department installed July 13 at the intersection of Mitchell Avenue and Mechanic Street will make a difference.

Police Lt. Tom Langston said the camera was one of three the police department installed around the city last week to record activity in known crime spots. The other two were installed at Locust Point and City Park. Langston said the police department plans to install two more cameras within the next few weeks.

“It’s a force multiplier,” Langston said. “Instead of an officer sitting down here acting as a deterrent, the camera acts as a deterrent.”

The wireless cameras continuously record and can be viewed live on monitors at the police department or by officers on cell phones. He said the city is in the process of linking the camera feeds to the computers in squad cars.

Langston said the five cameras can be moved if necessary.

They were bought using $21,000 of a $900,000 federal grant that the city landed in 2010 to buy cameras and other police-related equipment. City officials intend to use some of that money to buy 30 fixed cameras to place in and around downtown, he said.

Hagerstown already has 40 fixed cameras, mostly downtown and in the Jonathan Street area.

Langston said Neighborhoods 1st groups, which are made up of residents who are dedicated to improving their communities, urged the city to buy the cameras.

Billy Williams, who lives about a half block from the intersection of Mitchell Avenue and Mechanic Street, said he formed the West End Neighborhoods 1st group last year to try to make the area a better place to live.

Williams said he spent part of his childhood living in the West End. When he moved back in 2006, his old neighborhood had taken a turn for the worse.

“When I moved back, I thought, ‘What happened to the neighborhood I grew up in?’” he said. “A lot of people moved to get out of here. We want to tell them they don’t have to move.”

Williams said the Neighborhoods 1st members patrolled the streets and called police when they saw something wrong. He said the intersection where the camera was installed used to be a hot spot for drug dealers and vandals.

“It’s made a huge difference,” Williams said. “I hope it stays that way.”

Police said they already made an arrest since the camera was installed. The arrest involved a vandal who the camera caught dragging a knife against the side of a vehicle.

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