Washington County’s unemployment rate drops to its lowest level in five years

As the holiday shopping season geared up, the unemployment rate for Washington County fell from 8.1 percent in October to 7.3 percent in November — its lowest level in five years, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor and Licensing and Regulation. “The largest gain, percentage-wise was in retail trade,” said Peter Thomas, executive director of the Western Maryland Consortium. (Herald-Mail)

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Victims’ Rights Group Teams With Churches To Combat Sex Trafficking

Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport and a large truck plaza in Howard County near Jessup are two of the state’s hottest spots when it comes to human sex trafficking. That’s according to The Samaritan Women organization, a Baltimore-based victims’ rights group. That’s why Samaritan Women founder Jean Allert is reaching out to community groups and churches across the state. (WJZ-TV)

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Heroin Usage On The Rise In Carroll Co.

It’s a fight Carroll knows all too well, a struggle against a typically white or brown powdered substance that presents itself as a euphoric high and a warm sensation throughout the body. Fifteen years ago, a group of residents banded together in an attempt to decrease heroin usage in the county. And they watched as it seemed their campaign worked. But now that Carroll’s heroin-related overdose deaths jumped from two in 2011 to 13 last year, it appears the drug is back. (WJZ-TV)

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Jan. 3 // Bay advocates say state lax in monitoring county stormwater controls

Local governments are charged with enforcing state regulations limiting polluted runoff from new development, and the state is supposed to check on them. Only state officials acknowledge they aren't doing it. Environmental advocates say the lack of state oversight could lead to lax enforcement on the local level — and put efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay at risk. Rain washing dirt, fertilizer and other pollutants into storm drains and then waterways is a major source of bay pollution — the only category that has grown despite costly cleanup efforts. (Balt. Sun)

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Aberdeen Proving Ground commander promoted to Pentagon

Maj. Gen.-promotable Robert S. Ferrell, the former senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, has accepted a promotion to the Pentagon after less than two years at the helm of the Harford County Army post. Ferrell has served since February of 2012 as commander of at APG and of the Communications-Electronics Command at APG. (Aegis)

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NAACP: Baltimore gun violence affects 'every day people' too

Baltimore's NAACP president said the city's gun violence affects a wide range of residents, even if the victims themselves tend to be involved in the drug trade.  On Monday, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said gun violence was "localized" and "not throughout the city as a whole." He said "80 to 85 percent" of the victims are black men involved in the drug trade, and said "everyday citizens" saw crime, such as burglary and car break-ins, drop in 2013. (Balt. Sun)

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Prince George's Sees Another Record Crime Drop In 2013

Crime is down again in Prince George’s County, with overall crime decreasing about 12 percent compared to 2012 and homicides dipping to their lowest numbers since the mid 1980s. “Even adults need a timeout,” said community advocate Belinda Queen-Howard of Capitol Hills. “In Prince George’s County we don’t have a problem incarcerating someone for their timeout.” Queen-Howard spoke at a press conference held Thursday by county officials, where they announced violent crimes were down about 14 percent and property crime was down about 12 percent. Homicides were down about 12 percent, the lowest they have been since 1986, according to police data. (Gazette)

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Carroll County commissioners vote against regulating electronic signs

The brightness and blinking of electronic signs in Carroll County will go unregulated by the county government. The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday against implementing any new electronic message signs regulations, including those that have to do with brightness, message timing, screen transition timing and a public hearing for people who want to install a sign. The proposal was meant to regulate and manage the increasingly popular use of electronic signs, according to Phil Hager, director of the county’s Department of Land Use, Planning and Development. (Carr. Co. Times)

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