OCEAN CITY — After a particularly tragic May in the resort, including two fatalities within the span of three days, what appeared on the surface to be a summer season desperately in need of a mulligan is now cruising comfortably down the middle of the fairway.
The start of the summer season in May was epically tragic with several fatalities including a pedestrian struck and killed by an OCPD vehicle, a grisly high-speed motorcycle accident that claimed the life of a young Montgomery County man and a fatal fall from a hotel balcony just two days later. On Memorial Day weekend, another man lost his life in a street fight in the north-end that is now being prosecuted as a homicide.
The run of unfortunate accidents and incidents had town officials, residents and visitors bracing for the worst with June, which is typically the most dangerous month of the year in the resort with the arrival of countless recent high school and college grads, yet to come.
However, after the tumultuous start to the summer season, June went by quietly for the most part with no major incidents and the Fourth of July holiday weekend is now in the books.
To be certain, there has been no shortage of serious crime reports typical of a summer, but after an ominous start, a relative calm has settled in over the resort area with the historically worst part of the season now passed. Obviously, there is still a long way to go and there will likely be more incidents, but for the time being, the tragic month on May is now in the rear view mirror.
“May certainly brought with it several serious tragedies that none of us will soon forget,” said OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro this week. “We shared the assumption with many citizens that we were in for a tough summer considering the number of serious incidents that occurred early on and our officers were prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best for yet another safe summer.”
Buzzuro credited the common sense approach practiced by residents and visitors as the season moved from May to June and ultimately the Fourth, but also credited his charges within the police department for rebounding after a tragic May.
“June and the Fourth of July holiday are now behind us with relatively few serious incidents compared to years past, and I think it is true testament to the hard work and dedication of our officers on the streets,” he said. “They have done a tremendous job ensuring the safety of our citizens so far this summer.”
Buzzuro said keeping the momentum going for a safe and happy remainder of the summer season will rely on cooperation from the public. He urged residents and visitors to continue to adhere to the oft-repeated public safety messages.
“Despite the relatively calm summer we’ve experienced thus far, we still encourage residents and visitors to make safety a top priority for the remainder of the season,” he said. “Our officers do a great job of keeping our crime numbers low, but our citizens also have a responsibility to make safe and responsible choices to ensure everyone can enjoy the summer months in our resort town.”
Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters agreed the tragic start to the summer left many residents and visitors numb and bracing for an even worse June.
“I agree with the assessment of May,” she said. “I think the tragedies were unexplainable and certainly avoidable. Historically, we expect June to be the month when our statistics spike, so having a few terrible incidents early in the season was quite shocking.”
There is a not-so-subtle shift in the demographics in the resort as the season moves past the Fourth and into July and August, but Waters said the message remains the same, whether it’s graduate season or the current time when families dominate the region.
“We have a different demographic in July and August, however our safety messages stay consistent,” she said. “We cannot stress enough to our visitors the importance of putting ‘be safe’ at the top of their vacation to-do list.”
She pointed to last weekend’s four-day holiday as an example.
“We had 300,000 people in Ocean City this weekend and fortunately had no major incidents,” she said. “It is a testament to how incredible our public safety personnel are, in our police, fire and emergency services departments. We often forget while we are off enjoying the beach with our families on the holiday weekend that our public safety employees are patrolling our streets, guarding our beaches, answering 911 calls and transporting our loved ones.”
Waters said despite the historically worst part of the season now behind the resort and the promise of a safe and prosperous meat of the summer still to come, the importance of the public safety messages has not waned.
“There is a lot to see and do in Ocean City, but there is nothing more important that taking the time to walk smart, swim only when the lifeguards are on duty and swim near a lifeguard,” she said. “If there is anything we can learn from the terrible incidents that we experienced in May, it’s that a life can change in a second. There is nothing more important than taking a few extra steps to cross in a crosswalk, to wait a few minutes and cross with the light or to keep your eye on the road at all times.”