OCEAN CITY – The city along with the private sector is targeting safety concerns on the Boardwalk and looking to address issues by the beginning of the year.
Boardwalk property owner Jerry Greenspan briefed City Council members on safety concerns on the Boardwalk. On Oct. 24, a meeting was held where a number of Boardwalk property owners gathered to discuss Boardwalk safety and came up with a few suggestions to be presented to the city.
“After all, the Boardwalk is the crown jewel of Ocean City, Md. along with the ocean, beach, and bay,” Greenspan wrote. “It is our responsibility to continually evaluate the Boardwalk experience not only as a marketing tool, but in regard to how people react and feel about walking on the boards at any time of the day or night in terms of safety and the family experience.”
The first suggestion made was to improve the lighting on the full length of the Boardwalk.
“On certain places on the Boardwalk, it is dark and those are places where people can feel unsafe and crime can happen,” Greenspan said Tuesday.
The next item was to increase police presence on the Boardwalk by changing the personnel’s uniforms to a lighter colored shirt from the current navy, since it is a difficult color to view at night. Also, to design and construct podiums or stands every three blocks along the Boardwalk where police officers can be stationed. He added the podiums can also be used as information stands.
“But more importantly for people to know that every few blocks there will be some type of police force,” Greenspan said.
Other suggestions were increasing the amount of uniformed police officers on the Boardwalk, in addition to the mounted unit being spread out across the entire length of the Boardwalk, and to install visible surveillance cameras on and adjacent to the Boardwalk.
“I think people are getting much more used to seeing these [surveillance cameras],” Greenspan said. “I know in the big cities they are using cameras pretty much all across the city. I think it has helped in deterring crime.”
Greenspan added that enforcement of codes on the Boardwalk for all vendors and businesses needs to be concentrated from 5 to 11 p.m., including weekends during the summer. Enforcement needs to be focused on outdoor displays, such as T-shirts with inappropriate sayings, graphics and vulgar language displayed. Outdoor amplification also needs to be enforced for properties that have loud noise spilling out onto the Boardwalk, such as music with obscene language.
“There are times when there is music blasting out of the stores and it can be very offensive to people … some of the language that is used is very inappropriate for families and young kids, and I think that has deterred a lot of families from coming back to the Boardwalk on a regular basis,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed that the amplification on the Boardwalk has an effect on visitor experience.
“I know that the code reads you must have all speakers facing inward into the store but I am not sure if that is being done and if it is then quite frankly it is not working,” he said. “We have a wonderful location on the Boardwalk and a great attraction. We always think what we can do to make it better, and I think that is something that we are all interested in.”
Councilman Joe Hall pointed out the suggestions made are valid points for the government to look into but without Boardwalk property owners’ support in eliminating an obscene and vulgar atmosphere their concerns will continue.
“As we are willing to address the issues that you brought forward, I hope you can dig into the private sector out there on the Boardwalk to know that the ultimate goal is prosperity on the Boardwalk and a good experience,” he said.
Councilman Brent Ashley asked Police Chief Bernadette DiPino if it was procedure for a number of police officers to be on patrol of the Boardwalk in one place at one time.
“They are supposed to be split up,” she said. “We want our officers to be split up because we believe the more officers you see and the more spread out they are the more deterrent they are to crime.”
City Solicitor Guy Ayres said as far as the amplification on the Boardwalk from vendors or merchants, they are probably in violation of the noise ordinance in place, and if they aren’t but they are making an abnormally large amount of noise, then they can be charged with disorderly conduct.
“It always comes down to the same issue … we keep placing more regulation and putting things in place and yet we are not doing what we should be doing, which is really zoning down on the people that are constantly violating and do something about them,” Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said.
Council President Jim Hall said he would schedule a discussion regarding amplification on the Boardwalk in January. He added that the city will work on accomplishing the list of suggestions presented.
“The Boardwalk is a very safe place, and Ocean City is a very safe community,” DiPino said. “When you talk about how many police officers that we dedicate to the Boardwalk, it is over half of our resources dedicated from the Inlet to 19th Street, and we actually expanded our resources last year by adding an additional shift that works down there.”