OCEAN CITY – Calls for police service in Ocean City declined this June by 6 percent compared to June last year, according to a report presented to the Ocean City Police Commission this week.
There were 11,942 calls for service that were officer initiated, which is a 4.4-percent decrease from June 2012. There were 4,358 call of service initiated by citizens, which is an 11-percent decrease from June 2012. The total amount of calls for service in the month of June was 16,300, which is 6.3 percent decrease from June 2012.
There were 782 custodial arrests and 437 criminal citations, totaling 1,219. There were 255 custodial drug arrests and 304 drug citations, totaling 559. There were 86 DUI arrests and 65 weapon arrests.
Captain Greg Guiton explained a new state law enacted Jan. 1, 2013 has expanded the use of criminal citations in lieu of arrests. Therefore, the number of custodial arrests and drug arrests made last June were much higher than this June.
Police Chief Ross Buzzuro pointed out the impact the month of June has on the total calls for service in 2013 so far. In the past six months, there have been about 30,000 calls for service. The month of June alone represents 50 percent of that number.
Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out this is the first season in several years the police department is staffed at full force. In the past couple years, additional officers were not brought on in the summer due to a hiring freeze. However, even with an increase in officers, the number of officer initiated calls for service dropped.
“Another way to look at it, having more officers out there they are addressing things before the citizens call in, and I think it is good that we have officers that are taking the initiative to step up and address something opposed to letting something go and allowing the citizens call in saying I need a police officer,” Guiton said.
Although the number of officer initiated calls for service has decreased, Commission Chair Doug Cymek is concerned the high number is painting the wrong picture.
“I know a lot of those officer initiated calls are ordinance violations that are instantaneous contact where they pull over and then they move on,” he said. “I’m sure there are some severe crimes buried in those numbers as well but I am concerned that number keeps getting larger.”
Buzzuro recognized the top calls for service in June were traffic stops with 3,348. In his opinion, traffic stops are not considered a traditional call for service. The number one traditional call for service is disorderly, which was ranked as the third highest reason for a call for service in June.
Mayor Rick Meehan also pointed out that business checks was ranked as number four for calls of service with 1,010.
“Those are done at will or as routine,” the mayor said. “I am sure business checks are done when they are not called for or needed … I’m not really sure they are calls for service.”
Buzzuro agreed business checks are more of a matter of duty.
“Maybe we can dwindle this down a little bit further when looking at officer initiated,” Cymek said. “Right now, we are painting it with a broad brush but I would like to break that number down a little further and see what is really included in that.”
Next the commission was given a report on the newly initiated Electronic Control Device (ECD) program, also known as a Taser, and its use within the department. The program hit the streets in Ocean City in February of 2012.
“I am always impressed with the discretion the officers use. Just last month we had 17 incidents that ranged from displaying the device, to stepping it up and arching it, to drawing it on the subject and targeting them. Out of the 17, there were three deployments where it actually had to be used,” Cymek said, “I have always been a proponent of them … I wasn’t successful in the first year in getting them through the council but I think they have proven themselves now, and I am very, very happy with the officers in how they handle the use of them and using great discretion.”
According to Guiton, out of the three deployments in the month of June, two were used on intoxicated individuals. All three were used due to active aggression.
Since February 2012, there have been 93 uses and 22 deployments. There are currently 34 devices on the street, and seven devices are in the process of being purchased. The department plans to have seven additional officers ECD trained and on the street with the devices by September.
“They add great value to the department,” Guiton said.
Buzzoro, who was just sworn in last week after a career with the Baltimore City Police Department, expressed support for Taser use.
“Without that Taser during a confrontation, the result is usually injury to the suspect or the officers, and even innocent bystanders. So there is just a tremendous amount of good side, and virtually no down side to them … I am a tremendous proponent,” he said. “In Baltimore, we had every field officer in the department equipped with a Taser. I believe it is a good investment for our future to have every field officer here have a Taser. I feel strongly about that. From a business standpoint it is a reduction in injury, it is a reduction in workman’s comp, they just about pay for themselves in the long run.”