OC Scooter Accidents Up 46%, Chief Reports

OCEAN CITY – During this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Chief Bernadette DiPino updated the council on recent activity around town.

Here’s a synopsis of her report:

Scooter Accidents Are Up

DiPino said the number of scooter accidents have increased this summer. Last year, there were 57 scooter collisions and so far this year there has been 83, which is a 46-percent increase. She said there have been no deaths this summer and the chief believes that’s a direct result of the Mayor and City Council setting the regulation that helmets and shoes are required when driving or riding a scooter.

DiPino added there have been numerous complaints involving Scoot Coupes, which is a three-wheel scooter resembling a mini car. She said the department believes all but one scoot coupe rental in Ocean City is in violation of the law. The law states the scooters engines have to be less than 50 cc but most scoot coupe rentals are up to 150 cc, according to the chief.

The chief requested permission for the department to purchase a device to measure the engine motor size to determine whether there is a violation of the law. The council voted 4-2, with Brent Ashley and Joe Hall in opposition, to allow the police department to purchase an engine measuring device.

Noise Violations Are Down

DiPino wanted to remind the public that Ocean City is a peaceful community for people to come and vacation. She asked to be aware of neighbors and added there is a noise ordinance in place.

According to the chief, the noise complaints are down so far this season. There were 219 noise violations last year, and this year it’s down to 160. Despite the decrease in noise ordinance violations, the police department has found an increase in disorderly conduct calls.

Somerset Street Parking Change

The Cale machines, or paid parking, on Somerset Street, west of Philadelphia Avenue, allow for a maximum of 12 hours of parking in a designated spot. It was brought to the chief’s attention by a boat captain who explained some of the charter tours are over 12 hours and result in patrons receiving parking tickets because of the enforcement in the area.

DiPino asked for a change in the parking regulations in the area, such as changing the maximum amount of time of parking in the area from 12 hours to 24 hours. The City Council voted unanimously to have city staff evaluate the situation and have the meters changed.

Police Vehicle Purchases OK’d

In other police business this week, Purchasing Director Joe Sobczak requested the Mayor and City Council approve the purchase of four police vehicles.

According to Sobczak, the OCPD has previously been approved to purchase two unmarked sedans this fiscal year. One of the vehicles scheduled for replacement has lost a transmission and has been moved to the top of the priority list. The Crown Victoria is no longer produced by Ford, and its replacement will not be available until late fall.

Sobczak asked to replace the vehicle with a 2011 Chevrolet Caprice patrol vehicle. Along with the prioritized replacement he asked to purchase two, two-wheel drive Tahoe vehicles that were also approved in this fiscal year’s budget. In total, the request was made to purchase two Chevy Caprice patrol vehicles and two Chevy two-wheel drive Tahoes, at a total expenditure of close to $109,000.

City Manager Dennis Dare explained the reasoning behind purchasing the Tahoe is that it is build much sturdier then a sedan, historically it has better life in mileage, better visibility because the vehicle sits up higher than a sedan and it’s designed as a police vehicle so it’s more “heavy duty”.

“We also looked at the gas mileage and believe or not the two-wheel drive saves more in gas mileage then the Crown Vic’s or other cars do,” Dare said.

Councilmen Joe Hall and Doug Cymek questioned that if the Tahoe is too good to be true then why not purchase all Tahoe’s instead of two Caprices.

Sobczak explained the Caprice is larger than the current Impala and it is a rear-wheel drive vehicle designed for police work.

“The Caprice is for administrative or detective vehicles,” he said. “They are different than patrol vehicles because they are unmarked.”

Sobczak added since the Caprice would be used as an administrative vehicle it would be preferred for long-distance travel.

“The Tahoe we are talking about is a true police vehicle,” he said. “It is the only SUV currently built and designed as a patrol car, including a speed rate of a standard cruiser.”

Once staff explained the reasoning behind the recommendation, the council voted unanimously to approve the request to purchase the four police vehicles.

Scholarship Awarded

Last, but not least, DiPino awarded Joshua Kirstein, son of Captain Kevin Kirstein, with a scholarship this week.

“Each year the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association offers a scholarship award to one full-time secondary education student enrolled in law enforcement curriculum,” DiPino said. “Residents of the State of Maryland between the ages of 17 and 21 compete for the $500 scholarship and Kirstein was selected.”

Kirstein will be attending Eastern Kentucky University. He attended Stephen Decatur High School and was a National Honor Society member, National Technical Honor Society member, a member of the varsity swimming and varsity lacrosse teams, Lifesaving Club member, honor roll student and SkillsUSA President. His community involvement includes participation with the Town of Ocean City, a volunteer fire fighter and EMT for the Ocean City Fire Department, member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol and an intern with the Maryland State Police. He is also active with the OCPD’s community food and toy drive and Sonrise Church.