OCEAN CITY – When it came down to it, the City Council couldn’t justify passing up immediate grant money, even with a more potential long-term solution unfolding literally just down the road.
A crime analyst has been sought after by the Ocean City Police Department for several years, and when the Office of Crime Control and Prevention offered a $63,894 JAG grant to the town of Ocean City to obtain such an analyst, the council, despite having some other ideas for the position, voted 6-1, with Council President Joe Mitrecic in opposition, to move forward with the grant acquisition process.
“We feel that this position would make us successful and allow us to work not only harder but smarter in crime prevention, and I hope you take advantage of this grant we can see what we can make of it,” said City Manager Dennis Dare.
Oddly enough, it was announced this week by State’s Attorney Joel Todd that retired Ocean City Police Officer Glenn Hager has been hired as the county’s crime analyst, and as of Aug. 10, he will be working out of Todd’s Snow Hill office.
A few of the council members might have known about the potential hiring of Hager on Monday night and offered up their thoughts on the merits of a long-term crime analyst partnership of sorts between the town and the county.
“We have a possibility of utilizing a crime analyst that will be based out of the state’s attorney’s office, and I think there’s some changes that are about to come to the surface in that arrangement,” said Councilman Doug Cymek. “So I think that could be a bit better for the taxpayer’s pocket books in the long-term.”
The only “nay” vote in the discussion was Mitrecic, who was quite forthright in his disdain for the idea.
“I have been against this position since it was introduced years ago, and it seems like it just keeps surfacing every few years,” said Mitrecic. “This is still $63,000 of taxpayer money, and I believe it’s being wasted, because if you talk to some of the officers up there, they will tell you that they can do as good of a job as anyone that we would bring in here to be a crime analyst.”
State’s Attorney Joel Todd confirmed that Hager had accepted the position this week and noted that crime analyst positions were vital for current law enforcement agencies and ones yet to come.
“Crime analysts are the wave of the future, not a flash in the pan,” said Todd. “With the use of technology, we can almost forecast where crime is going to occur and therefore move toward the goal of being able to prevent crimes from happening.”
Todd also hoped that Ocean City would move forward and utilize the grant money.
“We need to be more organized than the criminals, so my advice to Ocean City would be to take the grant money and their analyst of course would work in close contact with ours,” he said.
The tripping point it seems for Mitrecic is the idea of hiring another employee, albeit a contracted one whose service with the town would be terminated next July at the change of the fiscal year, as he fears the position could be extended.
“I can just see next year, when the contract goes up, that we’ll say that we just have to keep this person on, so I just can’t vote for adding someone else to the payroll, even with a grant,” he said.
As per the 6-1 vote, Dare will apply for the grant, and if approved, the county may end up with two crime analysts, which, according to Todd, is only half of what neighboring Wicomico County has.
Mitrecic also thought that a crime analyst would have a hard time giving any sort of accurate reading on area crime, which he noted was down so far this year.
“We don’t deal so much with a resident population; it’s more transient, and transient is not as predictable,” said Mitrecic. “This isn’t Baltimore City where you can pretty much guess where crimes are going to be, because crimes in Ocean City are either crimes of opportunity or crimes of stupidity, and I don’t think a crime analyst will help us preventing that.”