Police Monitoring Homeless Squatting, Criminal Acts At Comfort Station

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Police Department will increase efforts to monitor the Caroline Street Comfort Station after officials received complaints from nearby residents.

In a Police Commission meeting Monday, Councilman Dennis Dare presented the issue to members in attendance.

“We had a correspondence from a property owner about the Caroline Street Comfort Station and the mayor asked me to refer it to the Police Commission,” he said.

According to Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, homeless individuals congregating in the comfort station along the Boardwalk have created problems for residents and police officers in recent weeks.

“Internally we have made arrests and issued citations already in February,” he said.

To combat the problem at hand, Buzzuro said additional officers will be tasked with checking areas at Caroline Street both day and night and meeting with the complainant to address the issue accordingly.

Councilman Wayne Hartman said he received a comment from a downtown property owner claiming that many homeless individuals in the area of Caroline Street were veterans and asked Buzzuro if there were any resources to help them.

“Do we know if they are veterans … (and) where we can find resources to help them get out of that situation instead of dealing with them in this regard?” Hartman asked.

Buzzuro said he did not know their personal situations, but explained that many suffered from mental illness and refuse the resources and shelter that are given to them.

“A lot of them don’t want our help, and that is the unfortunate part about it,” he said.

Buzzuro added that the police department has worked externally with Diakonia and other organizations, but to no avail.

“I wish we had a panacea for this, but we just don’t, and that’s the bottom line,” he said.

Reports of criminal activity related to homelessness near the Caroline Street Comfort Station are not uncommon.

In recent years, the Comfort Station and the surrounding location has acted as a sleeping area and refuge for homeless individuals dodging inclement weather.

“Compared to many municipalities, the issue is limited to the scope of the location,” Mayor Rick Meehan relayed from the police reports. “But it’s unfortunate and it still needs to be addressed.”