OCEAN CITY — With many resort residents planning on traveling during the holidays or taking those winter-shortening vacations early next year, the Ocean City Police Department has a residential security check program available to help ensure private property is protected, but it appears few are taking advantage of it.
With the arrival of the holiday season, numerous Ocean City residents will travel to see families over the next few weeks and countless more will take much-needed vacations to warmer climates after another busy season. For years, the OCPD has offered an invaluable program in which local residents can register their properties for random security checks by officers when they are not at home for extended periods of time.
Through the program, homeowners and business owners can register their properties with the OCPD’s residential security check program and officers will randomly go around to them at different times of the day to ensure they are secure. During registration, homeowners provide information about how long they are going to be away, what interior and exterior lights are on timers, who might be visiting the property during the prescribed time period, what vehicles might be in the driveway and any other pertinent information about the status of the property.
OCPD officers on routine patrol will then drive by the property at random times during the day to ensure everything appears to be as it is supposed to be. The officers will also get out and check doors, sliding doors, windows, garages and other access points to ensure the property is safely secured and has not been compromised in any way while the owners are out of town.
According to OCPD Public Information Officer Mike Levy, the program is the perfect way for travel-happy resort residents to ensure their homes are safe while they are away for extended periods of time.
“Our officers have a check list for each property including what lights should be on, who has authority to be there and numerous other particulars about a property that they check,” he said. “If they see something that isn’t consistent with what’s on the list, they will do a thorough investigation to make sure the owners haven’t been victimized by crime. They will physically check the property to make sure everything is okay.”
While the program has been in place for several years, few have taken advantage of it.
“We have 30,000 to 35,000 residences in Ocean City and 7,000 year-round residents, but we only get around 250 to register for this each year,” he said this week. “We’d like to see that number grow. This is an invaluable, free program ….”
Levy said the vulnerability of much of the resort during the winter and spikes in residential burglaries at different times in recent years make the residential security check program an invaluable tool for the department.
“After we had some burglary issues last winter, we want to raise the bar and set a goal for increasing registration in the residential security check program,” he said. “Instead of just 250, we’d like to see 2,500 to 3,000 registered for this. It’s really a no-brainer and it’s so valuable to us and to the property owners.”
The OCPD’s residential security check module is used to track residential and commercial addresses that require special monitoring. As officers patrol Ocean City, their observations and comments for the locations are captured in the department’s CAD system. When a special watch expires, a detailed report can be generated that outlines the frequency of the officer checks and any observations or unique circumstances experienced by officers for a specific address. More importantly, the security check system provides officers with enough information to quickly contact residents about their property in an emergency.
In addition to the residential security check program, Levy offered local residents some common sense safety tips for traveling and leaving their resort properties vacant for extended periods of time. With the proliferation of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, for example, many residents post their travel plans, schedules and pictures for all to see.
“That’s a fairly new development, but it can create a lot of problems,” said Levy. “The way things have changed digitally, a would-be criminal can easily find out where somebody is going, how long they’re going to be away and when they’re coming back. With a simple search, they can see you arrived in California five hours ago and get a picture of your vacant house. We all like to post pictures and comments about our vacations, but it’s a good idea to keep a lot of that stuff to yourself or check your privacy settings.”
Levy had other common sense safety tips for holiday travel and vacations.
“Tell a trusted neighbor you’re going to be away,” he said. “They can keep an eye on your property, turn lights on and off at different times, pick up newspapers in the driveway and even park an extra vehicle in the driveway or in front of the house at different times.”