Cumberland Ranks in Top 10 Most Dangerous Places to Live in MD

CUMBERLAND, Md – A recent study places Cumberland among the top ten most dangerous places to live in the state. However, there’s some disagreement between residents and officials as to why.

Executive Director of the Human Resources Development Commission in Cumberland, Courtney Thomas, said everyone in her office feels crime in the city is on the rise. 

“We think it’s spurred by drugs, when people are doing drugs they get desperate and turn to crime, so there’s reporting of crime via Facebook and social media,” Thomas said. 

Vicky Brennenman is a State Farm insurance agent in Cumberland and said her office moved to South Cumberland a few years ago for the revitalization of the area. 

“Things were really great for a few years, but within the last year we kind of hit a downhill turn with crime in the area,” Brennenman said. “I want my business in this end of town, but I also want my customers to feel safe coming to the building- up until this point, they always had.”

According to statistics by Home Security Shield, the chance of being the victim of a crime in the city is one in 13, but police believe those figures do not show the whole picture.

Cumberland Police Chief, Charles Hinnant, said those ratings are based on uniform crimes reported . In 2014, nearly 70 percent of crimes reported were thefts, with 50 percent of assailants stealing less than $100.

“We report all shop lifting crimes- we go out, conduct an investigation and if its justifies we place criminal charges against those that are accused, that certainly has an effect on the elevated number of thefts reported in the city,” Hinnant said. 

Allegany County State Attorney, Michael Twigg, said it’s important to understand that crime is not just a law enforcement issue.

“It’s something that needs to be attacked from several fronts,” added Twigg. “We in law enforcement can increase our patrol, seek mandatory sentences, do several different things to attack the problem, but were not going to arrest our way out of this problem- it has to be something addressed on several fronts.”

According to Twigg, there is one state attorney in Allegany County for every 330 crimes reported. This is the highest ratio of attorneys to UCR crime rates than any other county in Maryland. Frederick County has a ratio of 215, while Garrett County’s is 233. 

Nick Scarpelli has been part of the Cumberland community for several years and is part owner of the Scarpelli Funeral Home. He believes there’s one major problem causing several other issues. 

“It’s a lack of employment opportunities, and until we do something about that particular problem the economy, the quality of life is going to continue to deteriorate in Cumberland,” Scarpelli said. 

Britnie Spencer, 12, and Zachary Butler, 14, and their friends said they do not feel safe walking outside. 

“My mom doesn’t trust me to walk to school in the mornings,” Spencer said.

“I’m not even allowed outside because all the things happening on my street,” Butler added.

Safe Streets is one program designed to help battle crime in the city. The program identifies violent offenders who present the most danger to the community, and in a coordinated effort, provide data to hold them accountable for their criminal activities. The coordinator of Safe Streets, David Goad, said the program helped bring down overall crime by five percent in 2013 and four percent in 2014.  

“In my 37 years in law enforcement, this is probably one of the best programs I’ve seen to actually be that effective,” Goad said.

Goad reported that 20 percent of the population is committing most of the crime. That number also represents those individuals in the Safe Street program. 

While Goad said Safe Streets does a lot of good, another problem they’re facing is the bails set for convicts of Cumberland. According to Second Chance Bail Bonds, many individuals are arrested and post bail easily, because the inmates only have to pay one-percent of the bail up front.

While police continue to arrest and prosecute drug offenders, Hinnant said it’s a problem, but it’s not unique to Western Maryland.

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