OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials last night approved an emergency ordinance changing the town’s open container law back from a civil infraction to a criminal violation.
At the request of Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, the Ocean City Mayor and Council on Monday approved an ordinance to return the town’s open container law back to a criminal violation. For years, a violation of Ocean City’s open container law for alcoholic beverages in public areas was a criminal violation and often resulted in an arrest.
In 2008, the town relaxed its open container law, changing it to a municipal infraction typically resulting in a citation and a prepaid fine. On Monday, however, at the request of DiPino, the Ocean City Council approved an ordinance reverting the open container law back to a criminal violation, essentially allowing OCPD officers to make arrests or write criminal citations for an open container of alcohol.
“This ordinance change adds a valuable tool to an officer’s toolbox,” said DiPino. “By addressing minor infractions, through the ‘broken windows’ theory, we can stop situations from becoming more serious. This has been a successful police strategy in the past.”
Under the “broken window” theory, DiPino has said in the past making an open container arrest at 7 p.m., for example, might prevent the same suspect from committing a more serious crime much later, at midnight or 1 a.m. for example.
Ocean City Police are reminding citizens the new open container violation falls under the town’s code as unlawful to possess or consume alcoholic beverages on any public street, highway, alley, sidewalk, parking lot, Boardwalk or public beach within town limits. Any violation in the law may result in an arrest.