Crime Analyst Issue Dies with Split Vote

OCEAN CITY – The debate over budgeting a position for a crime analyst continued at the City Council meeting on Monday after the decision was put on hold last Tuesday, but the request this week was derailed by a split 3-3 vote.

Last week, the council went back and forth on the issue after hearing presentations from Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and three crime analysts from Salisbury, Frederick County, and Baltimore County.  The council ultimately decided to postpone the final decision for this week’s meeting when all the council would be present. Unfortunately, all of the council was not present, with Councilman Lloyd Martin absent. There was a suggestion to postpone the issue again, however the decision needed to be made so that it could be included in the budget being passed that evening.

The debate continued as the council remained split on the issue of adding a full time crime analyst to the police department. A crime analyst is a member of the law enforcement team who works to identify and analyze patterns, problems, and trends in crime.

Police Chief DiPino and Councilman Jim Hall brought a compromise to the table this week, suggesting a trade off of one potential police officer for the crime analyst position. “We have five positions currently open that we plan on sending to the July academy. We haven’t selected the five yet, so we would send four instead,” said DiPino. Simply stated, the crime analyst position would be budgeted in the place of a potential police officer in the 2008 budget.

“The chief thinks this is a very important position, as do I, and she’d rather have this position, a crime analyst, as opposed to another officer,” said Hall.

Councilwoman Mary Knight, who was absent from last week’s discussion, said that after extensive review of the information and after talking to several people about the issue, she wasn’t sure that the position was necessary at this time.

“I’m not saying I don’t ever want to do this, I’m not saying no, I’m saying that at this time I don’t feel the urgency to put this in our budget.”

Councilman Joseph Mitrecic also didn’t feel it was a position that was necessary at this time. “I think an officer on the street can solve more crimes than an analyst sitting in an office.”

Councilman Jay Hancock agreed saying, “I think that it’s more important that we have the guys on the street than we have someone sitting in the public safety building, most of the year without having very much crime to analyze.” Hancock also reiterated his statements from last week emphasizing the short period of time in which our crimes occur. “Most of our serious crimes occur in a limited period of time,” he said.

DiPino addressed this issue and stressed that some of the more serious crimes do occur in the off-season. “If we had this analyst, we would know when they are coming down and where they are committing crimes.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas supported the position but offered a compromise of finding a former retired police officer or someone part-time that wouldn’t add as much to the budget. She also made the suggestion to “look for someone part-time that already has experience.”

Others agreed with this suggestion but Councilman Hall said, “this is an important job, I don’t think that a part-time person will keep the contingency going.” Both DiPino and Hall said that the position requires someone full time who can dedicate themselves to crime analysis, not other areas.

“How can we gauge how much it’s going to cost for someone not to be a victim of a burglary,” DiPino asked in response to concerns over the budget and substitution of a police officer. “With this help, it will take less police officers in the long run.”

Mayor Rick Meehan addressed his concern over the existing computer systems. “Is this crime analyst the final piece? I thought the programs that we had were sufficient and I’m hearing that they’re not. I just want to make sure it’s the final piece.” DiPino assured the council and Mayor Meehan that this was the piece that they needed to be able to utilize everything that they currently have.

Councilwoman Pillas supported DiPino, reminding everyone that DiPino had in fact requested a crime analyst when the computer systems were installed. “You (DiPino) were proactive there about wanting a crime analyst at that time,” she said.

Councilman Martin was not present to contribute to the discussion, however the week before he had, like Councilwoman Pillas, voiced the idea of looking to retired police officers or part-time employees.

After further discussion the council voted on the motion to include a crime analyst position in the 2008 budget instead of including a police officer in the 2008 budget. The vote split 3-3 with Councilmen Hancock, Mitrecic, and Councilwoman Knight in opposition. Councilman Hall and Councilwomen Howard and Pillas were in favor. As a result the issue is now a dead issue and no action will be taken. A majority vote is needed for a motion to pass.