OCEAN CITY — Crime may be down, but there are certain rising numbers that have some members of the public safety division a bit concerned for the future.
According to the annual Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Report, overall crime is down 10 percent in the resort, and crimes against persons and property both saw double-digit declines at 11 and 17 percent, respectively.
Chief Bernadette DiPino presented the department’s annual report to the Police Commission on Tuesday outlining the more than $2.1 million in savings that the agency has accrued since 2005 and highlighted that serious crimes (ie, homicides, theft, robbery, and assault) have dipped to their lowest total number in seven years to 1,387 in 2009.
Although there have been no criminal homicides in Ocean City since 2005, aggravated assaults are on the rise from 47 to 61 (a 29-percent increase), as well as alcohol citations and weapon arrests.
DiPino noted that she feels that there is a direct connection between the increased number of narcotics (controlled dangerous substances) arrests (up from 777 in 2008 to 839 in ’09) and the drop in serious crimes in the resort.
“Our guys in the narcotics division have done a great job at keeping drugs off the streets of Ocean City, which I feel has helped crime dip in numbers,” said DiPino. “When people aren’t trying to get drugs, they are less prone to engage in crime.”
Alcohol-related citations are up 13 percent from 2008, with the large majority of that number (1,211 of 1,711) being comprised of underage drinking and fake ID arrests.
June still trends as the busiest month for the OCPD as it ranks as the highest month for Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) arrests (300), alcohol citations (more than 75 percent of the total number written annually are written in the month of June), and total arrests and citations that don’t involve alcohol.
Councilman Doug Cymek expressed concern over the rise in weapons arrests in Ocean City, pointing to the fact that June continued to trend as the problem month for the department.
Statistics show that 24 of 73 total arrests for weapons took place in June, while July (16) and August (11) came in second and third as would be expected. It should be noted, that in the so-called off-season, weapons arrests throughout the rest of the year are fewer than in the month of June alone at 22 total for the other nine months.
If one were to look at the top 10 calls for service in 2009, traffic stops remain at the top, but the number two position is held by “business checks” which is reportedly a drive-by check by an officer of a local business, or a case where the officer physically gets out of the car to check a business.
Some in the town’s hierarchy note that in the off-season, business checks are widely used to prevent robberies and trespassing, but there are some who argue that the business check number, which topped 13,000 could be easily padded to show a higher need for more officers on hand.
On another note, and to perhaps put concerns over alcohol-related violations at ease a bit, police officials pointed out that there were more complaints about animals (2,251) than there were open container violations (1,418).
“Every year, animal complaints are in the top 10, and that never ceases to amaze me,” said Captain Victor Bunting.