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Police see increase in gang activity, drugs

Ingrid Mezo

Only a handful of people showed up at this month’s Meet the Chief Night in Thurmont, but Police Chief Greg Eyler said he was not discouraged.

Eyler said he would most likely hold meetings every other month, with the next one scheduled in April.

The primary goal of the meetings is to improve the relationship between the community and the Thurmont Police Department, Eyler said.

‘‘We have some issues in town that are not serious, but that need to be taken care of," Eyler said. ‘‘The perception of the police department from citizens wasn’t good, and in some respects still isn’t good."

While speeding in residential areas and juvenile complaints top the list of problems in the town, according to Eyler, some more serious crimes are also occurring in the town.

‘‘We do have drugs here in Thurmont," he said. ‘‘It’s mostly marijuana and cocaine. ...We’ve also had a couple of breaking-and-enterings. I think everybody should know these things are happening in town."

While Eyler said people who are not town residents are committing many of the crimes, ‘‘these people are being invited in by town residents."

In addition, Eyler said he has seen some gang-related activity in town by members of a newly formed gang called E6. He said the gang is ‘‘not as serious as the MS-13 gang" but it still poses a threat to town residents.

One way for town residents to help protect themselves is to become involved in the police department’s community policing programs. Revitalizing the town’s Neighborhood Watch program is another way, Eyler said.

Town resident Matt Havens said he came to the meeting specifically to hear more about starting up a Neighborhood Watch program in his community. Havens lives in Catoctin Meadows, across from Catoctin High School, and said he had tried to start a program several years ago, but was unable to get it off the ground.

‘‘Our neighborhood doesn’t really have many problems," Havens said. ‘‘Most of them have to do with reckless driving and speeding. [Starting a Neighborhood Watch] is mainly about maintaining a small town feeling. Everybody wants to talk about problems...I think you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. I’m hoping people will really rally around the Neighborhood Watch."

Kirsten and Brent Dugan came to the meeting to give their toddler, Isaac, an opportunity to meet a police officer.

‘‘We feel safe," Kirsten Dugan said. ‘‘We see a lot of police officers [patrolling] at night."

Anyone interested in starting a Neighborhood Watch in their community may call Eyler at the town’s police department, at 301-271-0905.

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