OCEAN CITY — After 2015 set a 25-year low benchmark for crime rates in Ocean City, the figures dropped again significantly in 2016, according to the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) annual report released this week.
OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the annual crime report for 2016 to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday and the 14-page document showed crime rates in most categories continued to trend downward. The 2015 report showed crime in most statistical categories had dropped to 25-year lows, but the 2016 report released this week showed the rates dipping further by an average of 14 percent.
“The continued drop in crime rates is a true testament to the hard work of the men and women of this department,” he said. “Our personnel work extremely hard every single day to ensure the safety of the residents and visitor of Ocean City and the statistics and accomplishments highlighted in this report prove that to be true.”
Following the 25-year low in serious crime in 2015, the OCPD experienced an average decrease of 14 percent in 2016 compared to the five-year average and a 6-percent decrease from 2015 in serious criminal offenses. Buzzuro on Tuesday praised not only the contents of the report, but also its detailed composition.
“This is my fourth year and this could be the very best yet,” he said. “Although we saw record low crime rates again, we are still faced with challenges that my staff and I work to overcome. In 2016, we continued to evaluate ways for improvement to make us even more efficient and provide even better service to our citizens.”
Buzzuro said in addition to a drop in serious crime, the 2016 report also showed a considerable drop-off in the number of calls for service, both citizen and officer generated. The number of calls for service declined significantly from 76,750 in 2015 to 68,630 in 2016, representing a decrease of nearly 11 percent.
“Calls for service dropped precipitously,” he said. “That’s a pretty good sign for us. That shows things continue to head in the right direction.”
Also trending in the right direction is the department’s fiscal responsibility. In each of the last three years, the OCPD’s actual spending has come in significantly lower than its total budget. For example, in 2016, the department was budgeted $19.9 million and actually spent $19.7 million, representing a savings of nearly $204,000.
In terms of Part I crimes, or those deemed most serious, the overall numbers showed a decline of about 14 percent under 2015, which was a 25-year low. In the eight categories of Part I crimes, the numbers dropped by double digits in all but three. Aggravated assaults were down 14 percent, burglaries were down 23 percent, larcenies and thefts were down 17 percent and motor vehicle thefts were down 24 percent.
There was no change in criminal homicides with one reported in 2016. Forcible rape increased 40 percent, however, with 14 reported in 2016, up from a five-year average of 10. Robberies increased 47 percent with 28 reported in 2016 compared to the five-year average of 19.
The total number of arrests in 2016 came in at 2,079, down from the 2,535 reported in 2015. The five-year high for arrests was 2012 when 4,355 were recorded. The total number of traffic citations also declined sharply in 2016 with 15,893 recorded compared to 21,226 in 2015. Drug arrests were also down significantly in 2016 with 611 recorded compared to 820 in 2015. Again, the five-year high was 2012 when 1,351 drug arrests were recorded.
Alcohol-related crime is always a good indicator in a resort town like Ocean City and those figures also declined sharply in 2016. The OCPD recorded 246 DUI arrests in 2016, representing a decline of nearly 42 percent from 2015 when 422 were recorded. Similarly, the number of alcohol citations issued dropped to 445 in 2016 compared to 719 in 2015.
One area that showed a slight uptick in 2016 was the number of traffic collisions with 651 reported in 2016 compared to 594 in 2015. There were two fatalities related to traffic collisions in 2016 after zero had been recorded in each of the last three years. Similarly, the number of pedestrian collisions increased from 17 in 2015 to 22 in 2016, including one fatality.
Council President Lloyd Martin praised the work to reduce crime levels in most categories in 2016.
“It’s impressive that crime keeps going down,” he said. “Your officers do a great job of keeping crime out of Ocean City and we really appreciate it.”
Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out the surveys that pop up on-line from time to time often list Ocean City as a dangerous place because the statistics are applied to the small year-round population and not the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the resort each year.
“Great job,” he said. “We constantly get one online service that looks at these numbers and applies them to the 7,000 people and not 250,000 people and says Ocean City is not safe. I wish they would report these stats because crime is down and continues to trend down.”