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Walking Patrol in Hagerstown Going Ten Years Strong

"By walking it allows us the opportunity to engage with the general public, folks who are just on the street, give them a sense of security," said Officer Tom Kelley, walking patrol officer.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - For ten years, Hagerstown Police have had the Downtown Squad; officers who patrol solely on foot. And as the downtown Hagerstown continues to grow, so does their presence to keep the area safe.

The walking patrol division may be small in number but they're a visible force for businesses, government agencies and the general public.

WHAG's Kirstin Garriss took a walk with these officers as they patrolled the square and interacted with the downtown community.

We've all seen them around downtown, walking the street and patrolling the plaza; the Downtown Squad.

"Our goals are to achieve enforcement through visibility," said Officer Tom Kelley, Hagerstown Downtown Squad.

Officer Tom Kelley is one of four walking patrol officers. He says communication is a vital part of their jobs.

"By walking it allows us the opportunity to engage with the general public, folks who are just on the street, give them a sense of security," said Kelley.

Officers say 90 percent of their patrols are done on foot, giving them a more proactive role.

"We're able to identify problems in the area, communicate with other city agencies, communicate with private businesses or citizens within the downtown area to try to resolve a problem before it becomes a problem," said Kelley.

For business owners, the walking patrols adds a sense of security downtown.

"The presence of somebody walking around, people knowing that somebody is going to be walking throughout the area or could be potentially walking through the area I think it drives the negative stuff to the outer rims," said EJay Zuspan III, Owner of 28 South.

And some retailers say having the walking patrol could bring more business to the area.

"I think it'll help bring retail downtown just given that feeling of safety and security, people will say hey, move a business down here they've got, it's a safe environment to shop, safe environment to bring my business," said Dax Zombro, General Manager at Bikle's.

But these have officers become more than protectors of downtown, they become friends to businesses and customers.

"We're really getting to know them, a lot of local customers come in they know a lot of the officers by first name, they eat lunch together, they're great stables of participating and being customers of downtown as well," said Robert Foutth, Owner of Broad Axe.

And as Hagerstown continues to grow, officers hope the department can grow with it.

"If Hagerstown is going to continue to grow, and we're going to grow as a dept it is very important to us be a part of that equation," said Kelley.

Walking officers say they're ambassadors for downtown and they're doing their best to keep downtown Hagerstown one of the safest areas in town.

Recently, the Hagerstown Police Department increased the downtown squad so they could start 24 hour patrol shifts in the downtown area.
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