Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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The busiest months of the year in this area are May through September. Where some would disagree probably is in the ranking of the months because it comes down to individual perceptions.

My ranking of the busiest months of the year based on my experiences would be July, August, June, September and May. The crowd and tourism figures support this for the most part.

It was interesting to note that was not the case in the Ocean City Police Department’s 2014 Annual Report. By and large, after reviewing several different sets of data, the busiest months of the year for the police are June, July, August, May and September.

For instance, when looking at custodial arrests and criminal citations, June led the way, of course, with 1,125, followed by July, 734; August, 568; May, 433; and September, 270. In the category of serious crimes, the trend holds as well with June topping the year at 539 incidents, followed by July, 433; August, 336; May, 262; and September, 181. The same trend plays out in calls for service, as the month of June last year had a total of 14,825 calls for service, edging out July with 14,229, followed by August, 12,204; May, 8.355; and September, 8,042.

What these numbers confirm is the transition that takes place just about every summer season in Ocean City. It begins in May and June with a rough crowd, prone to partying and acting out in foolish and unsafe fashions, to the influx of college and high school students and then everything levels out after the 4th of July July once the families take over the marketplace.

 

One of the most disturbing trends included in the Ocean City police’s annual report was the dramatic spike in officer assaults.

Dating back to 2010, officer assaults have spiked 81 percent, from 47 to 85 in 2014. From 2013 to 2014, officer assaults jumped 18 percent, from 72 to 85.

Back when Tasers were first being considered for the OCPD, the idea they could potentially cut down on officer assaults was discussed as a benefit to adding them to the force. It’s too early to tell if that’s actually happening, but one thing is for sure Taser use is increasing. In 2012, deployment, target, warning arc and display incidents totaled 88; in 2013, 97; and in 2014, 108. That’s a 23-percent jump from the first year to 2014. During that period, officer assaults have nearly doubled, however.

Tather than thinking Tasers are having no impact on reducing officer assaults, I prefer to think the officer assault numbers would be even higher without them.

 

Typically, nobody wins when an independent arbiter has to break an impasse between a union and a government body. That looked like that was going to be case between the Ocean City lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Mayor and Council up until this week.

At last Thursday’s Mayor and Council meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan reluctantly addressed the situation and seemed disappointed by the stalemate.

“We just weren’t able to come to an agreement on some of the terms, conditions and numbers. That’s why the arbitration process is in place. With the glass half full, we are hoping it doesn’t come to that but it looks like that’s the direction we are headed. … the two sides have agreed to disagree at this point,” Meehan said.

FOP President Shawn Jones said last week the lodge’s membership felt it had no choice but to go to arbitration over pay and benefits differences with the city. He also seemed disappointed because it was the first time the city and FOP had considered arbitration since city taxpayers granted the police the right to organize via referendum.

“We are disappointed in the city’s position on things. As of right now, we are filing for arbitration but if we are able to get back to the table and work out a deal we would be interested in doing so,” Jones said.

That appears to be exactly what’s happening, as those involved are holding their cards close to the chest as of Thursday, but knowledgeable sources indicate talks resumed this week and a deal could soon be in place avoiding arbitration. That would be a win-win for all as arbitration is almost always a “lose-lose” for all involved.

 

An upcoming budget showdown is looming in Worcester County. This is not really anything new, but the players are different and that should prove interesting over the coming months.

Two days after the Worcester County Board of Education signed off on a $102 million spending plan that includes significant employee raises, the Worcester County Commissioners learned they will have their work cut out for them during the budget process. No matter the government or its size, each budget involves a certain amount of cuts and maneuvering. Certainly, Worcester County will have a lot of that to do this year.

The county is being asked to fund $82.7 million for education for the next fiscal year. That’s a $4 million increase over the current fiscal year’s allocation. That sort of jump is highly unlikely to get approved by the commissioners, considering the county does not have enough money in its budget stabilization account to fund expected shortfalls in the budget even without considering an increase in school funding.

The county has been reticent to increase property taxes in recent years, but I fully expect some sort of increase this year. Recent history actually shows that’s quite common for many governments the year after an election. The dismal revenue projections released last week only confirm that’s likely a reality.

 

 

 

 

 

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