OCEAN CITY – Litterbugs beware, the town is looking to have the community become more involved in enforcing the littering law.
After a recent conversation with Ocean City Chief of Police Bernadette DiPino, Councilman Brent Ashley reported during Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting that there have been three littering citations written so far this year, compared to the conclusion of last year when there was 12.
Ashley relayed a story the chief had shared with him. DiPino was leaving the Public Safety Building one evening when she came across a couple of gentlemen in the shopping center parking lot next door who had thrown a brown paper bag on the ground. This reminded her of her conversation she had with Ashley and she went to ask the men to throw the bag in the trashcan.
“They weren’t very cooperative and eventually they found drugs on these gentlemen and they were arrested, but had she not stopped for the littering this wouldn’t have happened,” Ashley said. “If we had more enforcement of the littering law than that could lead to other violations that we are not aware of. So I would like to see us do a campaign that Ocean City is a litter free city.”
Councilman Joe Hall said he supported any initiative on littering.
“I have been a big advocate that if we open our doors and we welcome people to enjoy our community … we also want them to respect the community and respect their neighbors while they are here, and littering is just an open expression of disrespect to the town they are visiting and clearly a well-crafted message and enforcement campaign would be responsible,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan said he had recent conversations with the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), in particular Vicki Barrett who is the president of Boardwalk Development Association, which OCDC absorbed this year.
“We are not going to get everybody that drops something in the street or for the trash that blows onto your property, but we can take it upon ourselves to have a program or we take the initiative to clean it up ourselves,” Meehan said.
Meehan supported the idea of the city initiating a campaign and coming up with a slogan of its own to encourage visitors and residents not to litter but also to have property and business owners to police their own property.
“If the property owners police their own property, we could make this town a little bit cleaner,” he said. “Sometimes we can’t rely on everybody else doing it; we have to do it ourselves.”
The mayor concluded that OCDC is in the works of coming up with an initiative in that respect and he is confident in what they will come up with.
“I saw what the OCDC has done with the façade improvement program, establishing the design criteria, and how they got the community to buy into this and I was hoping they could use that same theory to get the community to buy into not only enforce our littering laws but also step in and take responsibility for it,” he said.
The local Surfrider Foundation chapter has made Ocean City famous for its “Please Leave Only Your Footprints” campaign, which is going seven years strong. The campaign has logos posted throughout town to educate tourists and citizens alike in efforts to try to keep the beach and the ocean clean.