No Profanity Signs Worth Deliberation

Although they would be largely symbolic, Ocean City is right to at least hold a dialogue about installing some “no profanity please” signs along the Boardwalk.

The issue here is it will merely be a suggestion and will not hold any enforcement capabilities most likely, and there is no point to posting the signs if nothing can be done to someone standing in front of the sign cursing when a police officer walks by. Additionally, a concern is they would be ripe for vandalism and graffiti in high-volume areas. In the end, we don’t think the signs should be added to Ocean City’s Boardwalk.

Nonetheless, we don’t share the common social media opinion that it’s a ridiculous concept and a waste of money. First, the dollars spent on these signs would be miniscule. Secondly, the signs will basically serve as a feel-good measure demonstrating the town is committing to protect its image as a family resort.

Last summer was a disturbing one on the Boardwalk. There were high-profile incidents along the valuable real estate as well as some alarming scenes playing out routinely in the late-night hours. These signs will do nothing to stop that. However, they will demonstrate the town is looking to be pro-active and maintain a certain level of decorum. It will show the families who visit the area that Ocean City cares and is trying to protect their experience. It will confirm to families the city is not okay with young children having to be subjected to random and unnecessary foul language. We see nothing adverse about that intention.

The idea originated from a constituent who approached Councilwoman Mary Knight about the signs observed at Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront. In Virginia, there is a law that makes abusive language illegal. It’s a class three misdeamnor and carries with it a fine of up to $500. In 2011, only 25 people were cited, but it’s not about that so much as it is the message it sends.

Cursing is illegal in some situations in Virginia state code. For instance, if a man walks by another man and uses profanity to incite a fight, that instigator can be charged with disorderly conduct.

While the legal ramifications may be debatable, it would be foolish for Ocean City to actually draft any sort of enforcement angle to coincide with the signs should the city move forward with them. They would just be a symbolic reminder, which in many circles will be laughed at, of course, but it will also be appreciated and valued by others.

This is a proposal that should get the entire Mayor and Council’s attention. It should come up for a vote because it’s not ludicrous to try and protect the brand and encourage responsibility for one’s actions.