2007: Serious Crime Down, Services Calls Up In OC

OCEAN CITY – The 2007 Ocean City Police Department Annual Report was released this week, providing the final numbers for crimes and arrests in 2007 and revealing some interesting trends in the resort town.

Beginning with the positives reflected in the 2007 Annual Report, serious crime decreased by 7.7 percent from 2006.  Overall crimes against persons decreased as well, dropping nearly 20 percent. Aggravated assaults dropped more than 38 percent and breaking and entering dropped nearly 18 percent. Although breaking and entering calls decreased in 2007 from 2005 and 2006, the numbers still reflect an increase over 2004.

Calls for service saw a 10-percent increase this year, and although the numbers reflect more crimes being reported, the Ocean City Police Department generally encourages increased calls for service, noting that it shows an increase in community involvement in reporting crimes. The number one area for calls for service was for traffic stops, followed closely by business checks. Open container violations also made the top 10 list for calls for service, resulting in 2,136 calls for service.

Weapons arrests showed a decrease in 2007, dropping from 64 to 38, the lowest in the past four years. The criminal homicide rate of zero continued into 2007, marking no criminal homicides since 2005.

“I’m especially pleased with the drop in serious crime, considering the rise in calls for service. The officers of this department have worked very diligently. A drop of 20 percent in crimes against persons is significant. It substantiates the recent citizen survey where the overwhelming majority of respondents said they felt Ocean City was a safe community,” said Police Chief Bernadette DiPino.

Although many areas of the report reflected decreases in crimes, there were areas that reflected an increase. Robberies saw a rise of 34 percent, as well as drug arrests. The number of officers assaulted saw a spike from 65 to 100. Overall, there were 3,983 total arrests in 2007, an increase over 2006 that saw 3,695 arrests.

Alcohol citations is one category that the police department will invariably be taking a closer look at over the next year as the Police Commission moves into another year of considering changing open container violations to a municipal infraction.

The Police Commission has reviewed the idea on more than one occasion. Proponents of the proposal claim that valuable officer time is wasted on issuing open container violations. They also argue that issuing an open container violation, which could result in a night in jail and a visit to court, leaves a bad taste in the mouths of adults who travel to the resort town to relax and vacation. Opponents often point out that open container violations are usually targeted at the under-21 crowd and often result in further charges, such as possession of marijuana or disorderly conduct, getting potential trouble makers off of the streets.

Alcohol citations are down from 2006, from 2,196 citations to 1,488 in 2007, reinforcing the argument that officers are controlling the issuance of alcohol citations and not handing them out loosely. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 244 adults were issued citations for open container in 2007, a number that is likely to be considered too high for proponents of the change from a criminal to a municipal infraction

Neither the number of adults arrested, nor the circumstances of the citations were reflected in the report.

Monthly statistics reveal June, a time known for the influx of “June Bugs”, to be the hot spot month for crime in Ocean City, with 335 total arrests, more than any other month. June also saw the most calls for forcible rapes, robberies and larceny thefts. Total calls for service also spiked in June with 13,429 calls for service. June was also the lead month for arrests, 1159, and citations, 4785. June also took the cake for monthly drug arrests, monthly weapons arrests, and monthly number of officers assaulted.