OCEAN CITY — With Labor Day having come and gone, the Ocean City Police Commission this week reviewed the crime reports for the month of August and the year-to-date totals, revealing a mixed bag of results in both time periods.
Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the August crime data, including the monthly incidents and arrests as well as the year-to-date figures to the Police Commission on Wednesday. The report for August indicated an increase of about 5 percent overall in total calls for service, both citizen initiated and officer initiated. The total number of calls for service in August 2015 was 8,773, up from the 8,352 number reported in August 2014.
However, a breakdown of the individual crime numbers in the comparison revealed some anomalies. With roughly the same number of people in the resort, according to the city’s estimates, in August 2014 to August 2015, it would stand to reason the number of crimes would remain fairly consistent, but the report reveals several spikes in both directions in many individual crime types.
For example, traffic stops declined from 3,100 in August 2014 to 2,482 in August 2015. City ordinance violations declined from 1,046 in August 2014 to 858 in August of this year. Controlled dangerous substance (CDS) crimes dropped from 135 in August 2014 to 78 in August 2015 and suspicious persons or activity crimes dropped from 325 in August 2014 to 260 in August 2015.
Other categories that saw decreases from August 2014 to August 2015 included city ordinance violations, disorderly conduct, thefts, trespassing, domestic assault, DWI and malicious destruction of property. Oddly, the one category that saw the biggest change was animal complaints, which went from 385 in August 2014 to 178 in August 2015.
Those categories that saw increases from August 2014 to August 2015 included alcohol-related offenses, parking complaints, which went from 186 in August 2014 to 548 in August 2015, and 911 call hang-ups, which went from 556 in August 2014 to 732 in August 2015. OCPD Captain Kevin Kirstein explained technology changes were largely responsible for the spike in 911 call hang-ups.
“We saw a lot of cell phone hang-ups,” he said. “Some of that is simply related to the technology. There were a lot of inadvertent pocket calls, and in those cases, we get a ping from the nearest tower but not an exact location.”
Among the good news in the report is the overall decline in the number of Part I, or the most serious, crimes, which have declined by about 6 percent thus far year-to-date in 2015 compared to 2014. The year-to-date totals in Part I crimes declined substantially in most major categories including forcible rape (25 percent), burglary (38 percent), and auto theft (40 percent).
However, aggravated assault increased from 49 in 2014 year-to-date to 62 thus far in 2015, representing an increase of 26 percent. Larceny also increased from 797 in 2014 to 825 in 2015 year-to-date. Buzzuro explained larceny includes a wide variety of crimes from credit card fraud to identity theft to shoplifting. Even the increasingly more frequent telephone scams fall under larceny. Kirstein pointed out a recent scam involving a caller targeting residents and telling them to pay their utility bills with a certain type of cash card.
“The scammers were calling residents and telling them they had to use a certain type of cash card to pay their utility bill or they would be cut off,” he said. “We went to the grocery store where they sold that particular cash card and they were all sold out. It got to the point we were telling the employees to ask the buyers if they were purchasing the cards to pay utility bills and that has helped.”
Lieutenant Scott Harner described another recent incident that fell under the umbrella of larceny.
“Just this week we had a guy who stopped for gas and left his wallet on the pump,” he said. “By the time he realized and went back to look for it, his credit cards had been used all over town.”
Buzzuro also presented the Police Commission with a report on the department’s use of Tasers during the month of August. There were six incidents during the month when OCPD officers were forced to utilize their CEW’s, or Tasers, including two when the weapons were actually deployed. In one incident, an officer observed an unruly suspect fighting with a bar’s security staff. After the bar staff was able to separate themselves from the suspect, the suspect continued to be aggressive.
Even after the officer displayed his Taser, the suspect continued his aggressive behavior and refused to comply with orders and ultimately had to be Tased to be brought under compliance. In another similar incident, a suspect was attempting to assault bar staff before turning his aggression toward an OCPD officer on the scene. When the suspect continued to resist and would not comply with police orders, the officer ultimately utilized his Taser to subdue the suspect.