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Downtown crime stabilized, but 'it's not perfect,' Hagerstown police chief says

Holtzman addresses school board's concerns about safety during discussion of possible BOE move to downtown area

March 07, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Police Chief Mark Holtzman talked to the Washington County Board of Education this week about the police presence and crime in downtown Hagerstown.

At least one school board member, Jacqueline Fischer, earlier had expressed concerns about safety downtown during a joint meeting between the school board and Hagerstown elected officials two weeks ago as the city made a pitch for the school board to relocate its administrative offices downtown.

On Tuesday, Holtzman presented the school board with a fact sheet about the department’s downtown safety plan and shared information about the police presence in that area.

The police department has a downtown squad and auxiliary police, Holtzman said.

Auxiliary police, who were placed downtown in 2012, wear uniforms and carry police radios, but are not sworn officers, he said. The auxiliary police often work downtown at lunchtime and late afternoon when downtown workers are leaving for the day, he said.

The downtown squad and auxiliary police adjust their hours to help with special events downtown, Holtzman said.

If the school system were to move its administrative offices downtown, it could be given access to feeds from downtown cameras, just like the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown has, Holtzman said.

Referencing a fact sheet Holtzman shared with board members, he said a chart showed property and violent crimes in the downtown had decreased starting a couple of years after the downtown squad began, and have stabilized in recent years. The downtown squad’s first full year stretched from 2002 to 2003.

Holtzman said Thursday there were 133 property crime incidents downtown in 2012, compared with 227 incidents in 2005. The number of violent crime incidents downtown was 28 in 2012, compared with 51 in 2005, he said.

“It’s not perfect. Everybody has a story, knows somebody that might have had something happen to ’em, read about it in the paper,” Holtzman told the school board Tuesday.

Board member Wayne Ridenour told Holtzman he appreciated that Holtzman didn’t come to the school board meeting to tell the board it should move downtown “because everything’s peachy keen.”

“What you did do is say there are issues, we’re trying to deal with them and ... we feel like we’re getting better,” Ridenour said.

Ridenour said that when school board members were told at the joint meeting that “any issues downtown are just perception,” he found that to be “a little annoying.”

Ridenour told Holtzman he works in an office downtown and the building that office is in was broken into twice in two weeks.

After the meeting, Ridenour said the incidents occurred in February at 33 W. Franklin St.

“To me, that’s not perception,” Ridenour told Holtzman.

Holtzman said the incidents at that address were tied to other burglaries.

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