Numbers can often be tweaked to paint a picture inconsistent with reality, but in the case of the Ocean City Police Department’s crime report for 2016 that does not appear to be the case.
Criminal activity has steadily decreased the last two years in Ocean City. It’s been noticeable and the data backs it up. In fact, crime reached a record low in 2015. The year 2016 set a new low mark with calls for service — basically any action taken by police officers — decreasing 10.6 percent from 2015 to 68,630.
Specifically, part I crimes — the major ones like homicide, rape, robbery, assault and theft — declined 14 percent from 2015. There were 1,907 part I offenses in 2016. That’s significantly lower than the five-year average of 2,209.
Furthermore, total arrests for 2016 came to 2,079, compared to 2,535 in 2015 and 2,894 in 2014. The trend continued with total traffic citations, warnings and repair orders coming in at 15,893, down from 21,226 in 2015 and 23,248 in 2014. Drug arrests also fell in 2016 to 611 from 820 in 2015 and 1,325 in 2014. DUI arrests fell a dramatic 42 percent in 2016 to 246 from 422 in 2015 and 375 in 2014. Alcohol citations also fell considerably to 445 in 2016, from 719 in 2015 and 652 in 2014.
Some statistics did increase, however. Weapons arrests jumped slightly to 79, from 74 in 2015 and 77 in 2014. Noise complaints also increased to 586 in 2016 from 552 in 2015. Officer assaults hit a new benchmark with 85, up from 73 in 2015 and 84 in 2014. There were 22 pedestrian collisions in 2016, including one fatality, compared to 17 in 2015.
The bottom line is the report details the police department was essentially not as busy the last two years as it has been in the past. That’s a good thing and there could be a myriad of reasons as to why that was the case.
June continues to be a major concern and it may always be that way due to the youth of the majority of visitors. There were seven forcible rapes in June, representing half of the year’s total, and 426 serious crimes.
However, with last summer, the most high-profile incidents occurred in May, when a man was killed in a fight on Coastal Highway, and a near riot on the Boardwalk in July with multiple arrests.
Therefore, while there is good news in black and white on the report, there remains several Achilles heels in Ocean City. The Boardwalk late at night is one. It’s become such a concern among the public many refuse to stay on the boards on the weekends past a certain time out of fear for an unwanted element. Another area of worry is bus safety late at night. That’s why news the surveillance cameras planned for the buses will not be installed this summer is disappointing.
While data can be manipulated to support any kind of position in an argument, the statistics recapping 2016 police activity in Ocean City confirms the perception among the level headed types. There’s not as much crime as in years past. That’s welcome news but we caution against celebrating it because it can all change in short order because of forces in the public arena beyond the police’s scope.
There’s still good reason to be concerned about public safety, and we maintain it should always be the top priority for government, but the 2016 report confirms the police department is doing a solid job of living up to its top charges — maintaining peace and good order and upholding and enforcing current laws.