Holtzman a good choice for chief

January 26, 2013

Emergency responders form the backbone of a community. Without safety, all other efforts to foster a healthy city will come up short.

Outgoing Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith leaves some large shoes to fill in that regard, and we believe the city’s new chief, Mark Holtzman, is a good choice to carry the torch.

Holtzman has been serving as acting chief since Smith’s retirement in September, and there are many things to like about his performance. Most notably, Holtzman has served his time in the trenches and has earned a reputation for working well with residents of the city through the Neighborhoods 1st program.

Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts echoed the thoughts of many when he said “(Through) my own personal experience of working with him in Neighborhoods 1st, I know he’s a classy guy who makes data-driven decisions, who’s very community focused.”

The “community” part is key. Low crime rates are important, but so is the public perception of crime. Even safe cities will suffer if people in and out of town get the wrong impression and stay away. To that end, a significant part of the job is missionary work, demonstrating that people can indeed shop, study and eat downtown in safety.

Hagerstown might be on the brink of something exciting, if some nascent redevelopment plans come to reality. The police force will obviously need to be part of these plans.

We encourage Holtzman to maintain his reputation as a good communicator, both through the media and through the streets and through those who are looking to turn the city around.

Strong policing and strong growth go hand-in-hand. Struggling neighborhoods can be bolstered one at a time with fresh development protected by an active police presence.

We wish Holtzman well and congratulate him on his appointment. These are difficult times, but exciting times, and the police force will be a central piece of the puzzle as Hagerstown moves forward with plans to transform itself into a spot people will want to visit, and a place that will make them feel safe, once they are here.

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