Troubled area gets good cleaning; Cleanup aimed at neighborhood with frequent drug arrests; 60 volunteers help


About 60 volunteers marched through Westminster's west-side streets and alleys yesterday, picking up and hauling away six truckloads of trash and debris.

The cleanup, spearheaded by city officials, was aimed at a drug-infested neighborhood near West Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue where police have made 83 arrests since August, said Roger Joneckis, chief of police.

The most recent arrest occurred Friday night when John Kenneth Tate, 24, of Pimlico was charged with possessing and distributing crack cocaine. He was being held at the Carroll County Detention Center, with bail set at $75,000, police said.

"I grew up here, consider this home, and we're not going to go away," said Joneckis, who assigned officers to work with the volunteers yesterday.

Among the volunteers were 20 members of sororities and fraternities at Western Maryland College in Westminster. "We're glad to help out as part of our community service programs," said Danielle Price, 19, vice president of Alpha Phi Omega.

The city Department of Public Works provided cleanup equipment -- including trucks, a street sweeper, front-end loader, plastic bags and 60 pairs of new work gloves.

"No one can fault the city for not picking up trash," said Tom Hallman, 62, who lives in the first block of Pennsylvania Ave. "They were through Friday to collect trash and always do a great job, but some people living here just don't care what they toss down."


Wayne Reifsnider, assistant superintendent for the city's street department, said the trash problem has worsened even since summer.

Residents like Patricia Knoll say the problem has been growing for years.

"My family moved here in 1969 and it certainly has changed in 30 years," said Knoll.

"This used to be a small town, and it still is, but it has big-city problems now," she said. "This [cleanup] shows people are working to deal with the problems."


Two months ago, Debbie Finch and Robin Kable formed a citizens' support group to help combat the drug problem, naming it the West Side Community Task Force.

"We had three goals: to make the community drug free, crime free and preserve the integrity of our properties," Finch said.

The mother of four children, Finch also has seen changes during the past 10 years, including a loss of pride in keeping up properties and more crime.

"I'm afraid to let the children go far, to play in the parks and it's not a healthy feeling," she said. "We've considered moving, but really don't want to. We've made a 10-year commitment to improve the neighborhood."

Westminster Mayor Ken Yowan was among those who praised the volunteer effort yesterday.

"It is going to take all these groups working together with the city and the police to achieve success," Yowan said. "We also will look at getting landlords to better screen their tenants, and we want to adopt and begin enforcing our own housing or livability code."

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