Council Divided Over New Crime Analyst Position

OCEAN CITY – The City Council faced debate during a work session Tuesday over the issue of budgeting a position for a crime analyst within the Ocean City Police Department.

Police Chief Bernadette DiPino came before the council Tuesday seeking approval to add a crime analyst to the police staff. A crime analyst is a member of the law enforcement team who works to identify and analyze patterns, problems and trends in crime.

Accompanying DiPino were current crime analysts Carl Koprowicz of Baltimore County, John Moore of Salisbury and Bill Douwes of Frederick County.

The three crime analysts presented statistics and evidence to prove the worth and need of a crime analyst in their counties as well as in Ocean City.

“Knowledge is a key factor in effective and responsible policing,” said Moore.

Each analyst provided examples of increases in effective police work as a result of their efforts as crime analysts. Each analyst explained to the council how examining trends in crimes could help to catch perpetrators. One example provided explained how examining the trends and patterns of a series of cat burglaries helped the police to map out and estimate where the next burglary may occur. These efforts resulted in an arrest that the police force had been seeking for months.

Despite the abundance of information provided to the council, not everyone was convinced that the scenarios and statistics provided applied to Ocean City.

“I don’t think this fits Ocean City,” said Councilman Jim Hancock, a retired veteran of the OCPD. “It’s much smaller in year-round population.”

Other council members agreed with Hancock, feeling that the numbers and crimes of Frederick County, Baltimore County and even Salisbury don’t reflect those of Ocean City. Both the size and resort nature of the town make it unique to the information provided.

In response, examples of resort towns and cities of similar size to Ocean City were presented. Moore pointed out that West Palm, Fla., which maintains a considerably lower crime rate than Ocean City, has a crime analyst. Eleven other similar-sized resort communities in Florida were examined, seven of which have crime analysts with one in the process of hiring a crime analyst and the other three using sheriffs as their crime analysts. Other resort towns mentioned with crime analysts were Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, and Key West.

The council members then posed the question of who is currently doing the crime analysis in Ocean City and whether or not the current CAD-RMS system was being utilized.

The CAD-RMS system is a computer program that produces the numbers and facts on crimes, basically crunching the numbers that a crime analyst would then analyze.

Mayor Rick Meehan questioned why so much time and effort had been spent implementing the CAD-RMS system if it was not going to work effectively.

DiPino explained that the current CAD-RMS system is providing information but that there was no one to analyze it.

“We are utilizing the system but we need help extracting the information,” the chief said.

DiPino went on to explain that she had requested a crime analyst when the CAD-RMS system had been approved. She also said that there is currently no one on staff with the amount of time needed to dedicate to crime analysis.

Councilwoman Nancy Howard agreed, saying, “you need someone who can do that particular analyzing.”

Hancock felt the position may be needed during the busy months of summer but would be futile during the rest of the year.

“A large portion of our crime occurs in a very limited period of time,” said Hancock.

The feeling was that a full-time employee is not necessary and that there would be no need for crime analysis during a large portion of the year.

Councilman Jim Hall disagreed, explaining that large portions of the town’s crimes do occur out of season.

“It doesn’t stop just because it’s Aug. 30,” he said.

Hall went on to stress the importance of predicting crime patterns and trends on a year-round basis, not just in the busy summer months.

Hall continued to support DiPino’s request, saying, “I’ve got to go along with the Police Department here. I think this is modern policing.”

Councilman Lloyd Martin proposed looking at part-time employees or looking to retired individuals who would be interested in taking on the task.

After lengthy debate, a decision still had not been reached. All the council members agreed that such an important issue should not be decided without all of the council members present. The ruling on the issue was postponed until Monday night’s meeting when Councilwoman Mary Knight would be present.