OCEAN CITY – Just because the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) is about to “buddy up”, it doesn’t mean there will be a scaled down police presence in Ocean City.
As part of City Manager Dennis Dare’s first round of town budget cuts totaling $1.4 million, the police department will be doing its part to save on fuel costs by riding two officers to a cruiser, which will reduce the number of marked cars on the road, not the number of officers on patrol, OCPD spokesman Mike Levy pointed out this week.
“It’s a very challenging balancing act,” said Levy, “but the chief assures the public that this won’t deter or inhibit how we protect and serve the people of Ocean City.”
It should be noted that this was not a cut or policy change that was passed down unexpectedly on the OCPD, as Dare compiled his list of budget cuts based on recommendations from numerous town officials, and heads of department, including Chief Bernadette DiPino. In fact, Levy said that the department has been implementing cost-saving measures on gasoline by increasing the number of bike, horseback and on-foot patrols for a number of months.
“We currently have one of the largest if not the largest [bike patrols] in the state, and I would guess maybe the East Coast, so that effort kind of breaks the cop in the doughnut shop stereotype, said Levy, “but we work in a career of unknowns, and though two officers to a car is effective, we want to make sure that doesn’t impair our effectiveness.”
Dare said “buddying-up” two officers to a car would be valuable for “response calls” as in most cases, like domestic calls, two officers are required at the scene. In addition, Dare said that “the officers can utilize the bike racks on the police cruisers and one officer can drop off one member for a bike patrol or park the cruiser altogether and patrol neighborhoods on foot or on bike.”
Levy said the foot patrol shift’s value, especially late at night, is oftentimes overlooked.
“People would be surprised by how many un-secure things and properties that the officers on foot patrol find, that they wouldn’t necessarily find if they didn’t stop and get out of the car and patrol on foot,” he said.
Despite the dramatic drop in gas prices over the past two months, fuel conservation is still an important issue in these economic times as it is a cost saving measure, and Dare has implemented those measures all over the board, from the police buddy-up system to eliminating capital projects and employee perks.
Levy said that though the department will not give out the exact number of cruisers on patrol at a given time, the public shouldn’t feel or see a dramatic variance in police presence.
“There will be no depreciable difference. On any given night, you may see 10-20-percent less cruisers on the road, but the presence will continue at the same level, especially after the bars close,” he said.
Studies have been done all over the country weighing the pros and cons of two man patrols vs. solo patrols. Opponents of two-man patrols say that it potentially slows down response time and limits coverage, while those in favor cite safety of the officers as they have “in-car” backup and a more effective patrol in the coverage area, thus providing better safety to the public.
Though a few of the studies cited fuel conservation, the majority of the studies concentrated on the optimal effectiveness of the patrol and safety of the officers and the public.
Regardless of studies done or budget cuts or how many officers ride in a car at a time, Levy stressed that the department’s goals remain unchanged.
“This has been a very dynamic year. Gas prices were almost $4 a gallon, and all of a sudden they are back to where they were in 2002, so while we will try to accomplish these goals, this department has always maintained an approach of ultimate efficiency and protection,” he said.