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Town to consider banning skateboarders

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News-Post

(10/28/03) The board of commissioners recently hired county deputies to patrol town streets. Soon, it might tell those officers to start rounding up skateboarders.

Citing personal experiences and resident complaints, the commissioners said Tuesday night that they may ban skateboarding on streets and sidewalks. For months, youths whose behavior ranges from nuisance to menace reportedly have slammed into pedestrians and vehicles around town.

The town now has deputies dedicated to patrolling at certain times, but the officers can’t stop skateboarding because Woodsboro lacks an ordinance regulating it. That may change soon because the commissioners seem poised to outlaw the activity unless there’s a sudden, drastic change in the attitude of skaters around town.

Commissioner Gary Smith said Woodsboro once strongly considered outlawing skateboarding but didn’t have to because the skaters changed their ways. He said the ban threat "got their attention and they got better."

Resident Scott Brakebill said a ban might not be the best move. He suggested fining parents when their children are caught acting in an unsafe manner. Mr. Smith, however, argued that if the parents really cared, they’d keep their children from doing hazardous things. He said he didn’t think a fine was enough of a deterrent.

Catching offenders also was seen as a problem. J. Robbins said repeat offenders are "like cockroaches when you turn on a light" and scatter if anyone in authority comes near. He suggested allowing charges to be placed if two responsible adults were willing to say they saw a youth involved in prohibited acts.

The town will continue discussing the need for an ordinance at its Oct. 27 workshop.

The board also heard from members of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office regarding the establishment of a townwide Neighborhood Watch program. The program is geared to thwart more serious crimes such as burglary or robbery, and doesn’t address nuisances like speeders and skateboarders, the board was told.

Neighborhood Watch, which operates nationwide and has been set up in more than 90 places in Frederick County, relies on neighbors to look out for each other’s property and report suspicious activities. As a result, Frederick County requires 65 percent of the homes in an area to be represented in the watch program before an area is certified.

Ed Higinbotham Jr. said that because crime is not a major problem in Woodsboro, he thought getting enough participation might be difficult. But Deputy Kevin White said the program is a proactive way to keep crime out of an area.

Burgess Donald Trimmer said the board would consider the need at a future meeting and decide whether to proceed.

Mr. Trimmer also provided some positive financial news. The town probably will qualify for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help cover the expense of repairing park damage caused when Hurricane Isabel passed through the area.

A ballfield, dugout roofs and a fence need repairs because of the storm, and sand was washed and blown from under playground equipment. Mr. Trimmer said repairs probably will cost about $11,000, and FEMA might pick up 75 percent of the tab.

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