Low Interest Leads City To Re-Bid Boardwalk Cameras

OCEAN CITY – Due to an abnormally low number of bids, the Town of Ocean City is planning to re-bid the work to install an enhanced camera network on the Boardwalk to improve safety in moving ahead.
This week’s bids to install additional cameras to the network on the Boardwalk stirred up discussion following a citizen’s questions over the project.
“Through the course of our discussions over the summer, and trying to make sure we maintain a safe atmosphere on the Boardwalk using all the modern technology that is now available … and in working in conjunction with the police department, the idea of mounting additional cameras in strategic locations, or locations that were studied and approved by law enforcement to be the most productive place to install a camera, was the decision in the way to go,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.
The mayor recognized there are cameras currently installed on the Boardwalk and this project will be an expansion of that network to enhance security in areas where the devices will be the most effective.
“We live in an ever changing world and we invite everybody to come to Ocean City and hope they all behave when they come here, but we can’t always guarantee who exactly is going to come here and it only takes one out of so many to cause a problem,” Meehan said. “If we can do something that will help protect the people on the Boardwalk, or help ensure that we are a bit safer, it is the right thing to do. It puts more eyes out there.”
Councilman Brent Ashley said he hopes the installation of additional cameras sends “a clear message that criminals, thugs, lawbreakers and troublemakers are not welcomed here in Ocean City.”
Council President Lloyd Martin agreed, adding the cameras will provide a variety of benefits, such as locating a lost child, which happens many times during the summer months.
“It is something we can add to the Boardwalk to help make people feel more secure as we move forward,” Martin said.
There was only one bid received on time and one late bid received out of 10 expected bids. The council voted 6-0 with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas absent to reject both bids to have both resubmitted.
The project includes cable from S. 1st Street to Worcester Street, cable from Worcester to Talbot streets, and cameras at Dorchester Street, North Division St., 1st and 2nd streets and at 5th, 7th and 12th streets.
City Engineer Terry McGean explained there is already about 100 cameras installed throughout the Town of Ocean City, mostly within the Public Safety Building, that are all connected to the same software system. The new cameras will be added to the existing software and two new work stations and a large video wall at the Dispatch Center was included in the budget of $150,000.
The Mayor and City Council voted in August to use part of $1,170,000 cost savings from the Boardwalk reconstruction project and Fire Station 4 project in the 2012 bond issue to fund Boardwalk safety enhancements, such as the cameras and call boxes.
Coming off a summer with an increase in serious crime activity on or around the Boardwalk, the installation of cameras have been referred to as a form of increased intelligence to deter criminals from coming to Ocean City.
In an interview in August with The Dispatch, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzurro stressed how important he believes the camera initiative will be.
“Any area where you have a high volume of people, we do have our incidents. However, perception is reality. As we look forward, we are looking at technology. Even before that, we are looking at how we can maximize our resources, our personnel, their placement on the Boardwalk, trouble spots that we have previously seen and how we can place our officers in a deliberate fashion as we move forward,” he said.
Buzzuro furthered, “We also want to introduce technology in the form of video cameras as a force multiplier so we can have those additional eyes that can give us assistance and place them in strategic places based on our data from previous incidents. That will help maximize our defense and maximize public safety. You have the personnel, the ground forces, and the introduction of more technology for the Boardwalk in the form of video cameras.”
When asked if the department utilized the current cameras on the Boardwalk as a way to react to crime incidents taking place, then-Public Information Officer Michael Levy, who has since retired, said that was not the case.
“It’s not an active system. It’s a passive system. We use them when we need them for big events. For the most part, the ones that are active now are used for tourism and for accountability,” Levy said. “What the chief is talking about is these other cameras will be an actively monitored system. In other words, you will have someone watching these things to provide another set of eyes when we don’t have an officer. What that does is supplement officers with a much more expansive view than they have currently.”