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Deputy wins state award for retail anti-crime work

May 23, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Deputy 1st Class Jim Holsinger has received a statewide award to validate his efforts at crime prevention.

The eight-year veteran of the Washington County Sheriff's Department was surprised to learn last Wednesday that he was the state winner of the Maryland Retailers Association crime prevention award.

"Sheriff Charles Mades and I went to the luncheon at the BWI Marriott but I thought it was just to recognize me for the regional award," Holsinger said.

A Maugansville native, Holsinger earned the awards through his efforts to prevent retail crime at Valley Mall in Halfway. Among these efforts are a Business Watch program for mall merchants, a security survey of the mall and a public awareness day last November that focused on shopper safety and shoplifting.

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"The Business Watch program involves having meetings with store personnel on a quarterly basis and at different times of the day to include all shifts," Holsinger said.

The purpose is to teach good business habits and to give store personnel tips like displaying more expensive merchandise farther back in the store instead of out front, where it is easier to steal.

Holsinger said most merchants appreciate the free service and cooperate with the deputies.

"The law gives store personnel certain powers, such as the right to try to get their merchandise back," Holsinger said. "But they need to be told what they can and cannot do."

Merchants tend to be cautious to avoid civil liabilities, he said.

"The sheriff's department is responsible for what goes on inside the stores at the Valley Mall," Holsinger said. The larger stores also have their own security people.

"The public safety officers hired by the mall are responsible for maintaining order in the common areas and the parking lots," he said. "They are high-quality employees who have pepper spray and handcuffs to use in their duties."

Holsinger briefly worked as a judicial deputy at the Washington County Courthouse, but has worked in retail crime prevention for most of his career. "I was asked to take on this role and I've really enjoyed it," Holsinger said.

"We will respond to any retail store in Washington County but the Valley Mall is the largest concentration of stores for us," Holsinger said.

Not all of Holsinger's crime prevention efforts are at Valley Mall. He headed up a security assessment of 31 schools in Washington County, giving tips to personnel on how better to monitor and secure the buildings.

Home security is a facet of the work but Holsinger said his main emphasis is on retail crime.

Tom Saquella, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, said the efforts of those like Holsinger pay big dividends for the retail trade and serve as a model for others around the state.

Holsinger, 33, is the son of Robert and Regine Holsinger. He and his family live in Maugansville.

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