OCEAN CITY – During this week’s Police Commission meeting, methods to prevent the distribution and eventually littering of pizza business flyers was discussed.
According to Captain Kevin Kirstein, complaints have been coming into the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) over the amount of pizza business flyers being distributed on parked cars and residences that eventually find their way into the streets creating a littering issue.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of luck so far going to the pizza businesses and having the issue resolved,” Kirstein said.
Lieutenant Mark Pacini said that the police department wanted to discuss the issue with the commission to receive clarity on the city ordinances involving littering and the distribution of advertisements as well as discuss methods to enforce the policies.
The city ordinance entitled Distribution of Advertisements and Handbills states, “It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to cast, throw, place or distribute any advertisements, circulars, handbills or wastepaper in the vestibules, doorways, porches or yards of private property or upon private vehicles, from which they may be blown upon and into the public streets, alleys or public places within the corporate limits of Ocean City.”
According to Pacini, the pizza business flyers became an issue last summer once the department began receiving a number of complaints. He said complaints included pizza business employees shoving flyers under and in residence and hotel room doors, and some going as far as opening residence doors and placing flyers inside the home. There have also been complaints of property damage caused from pizza flyer distribution among private vehicles.
The police department now has a zero tolerance with pizza flyer distribution. There have been 37 incidents filed since last summer. Pacini suggested to the commission to begin suspending business licenses for 30 days upon being caught in the act of distributing flyers and revoking business licenses of repeated offenders. Kirstein added that the police department has already been receiving complaints this year.
City Manager Dennis Dare said to better enforce the city littering ordinances, letters will be sent to last summer’s violators as a warning and additional violations will be acted upon.
Kirstein explained that an investigation will be conducted upon discovery of a violation. He said the department understands there are different conditions involving pizza business flyer distribution, such as flyers that are offered in an advertisement rack in a hotel when compared to a pizza business employee distributing flyers among the cars in the hotel’s parking lot.
“The first thing you hear from us is not going to be you have to visit the city’s manager office to have your license revoked,” Kirstein said. “We’re going to work with you.”
Kirstein added that the pizza flyer issue also involves valuable city staff time. The police department has to work with the complaints and investigate the issue as well as the waste and public works departments have to work to remove the littering the flyers cause.
“Our hope is through this collaborative effort bringing these people in and working together this problem is just going to go away,” Kirstein said. “Hopefully, we’re not going to have to deal with it and there won’t be a need to have any issues to revoke licenses.”
Pizza Tugos owner Scott Heise and Pizza Mambo Vice President Ruben Gyoletsyan were in attendance. Heise, who said he was partially in agreement with the department and the commission, asserted that certain forms of advertising, such as doorknob hanging flyers, were not in violation of the city’s ordinance.
“To hang flyers on the doors is free speech,” Heise said. “We’re not violating city ordinances.”
Council President Jim Hall responded that the distribution of pizza business flyers is against the law.
“It’s six or seven o’clock at night and someone is walking from house to house putting something on the door. It’s just creepy,” Hall said.
Jim Hall made a motion to accept the recommendation of the police department to suspend violators and revoke repeat offenders. The commission voted to accept the motion.
“We are going to have to start enforcing it now,” Police Commission Chairman Lloyd Martin said. “Pulling your business license in the middle of summer is not good.”