OCEAN CITY — After a clear directive was issued for the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) to begin aggressively enforcing the town’s smoking ordinance, a significant spike in citations has been seen this early season.
Three years ago, the Mayor and Council approved an ordinance banning smoking on the Boardwalk and on the beach except in certain designated areas. In the first year, the approach was to educate residents and visitors on the law change and direct them where to legally light up.
In the second year, the council issued a directive in the midst of the summer season to step up enforcement with the learning curve over and the number of citations spiked up late last summer.
This spring, the council instructed the OCPD to adopt an even more stringent approach to enforcing the smoking ordinance and the department has responded with a spike in citations. During Monday’s meeting, a private citizen questioned the enforcement of the smoking ordinance.
“We took the position that the first couple of years were going to be educational, but we’re taking a more hardline approach this year,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “I think you’ll see wherever possible that’s going to be enforced with citations issued if there is any resistance whatsoever.”
Meehan said many seasonal officers and public safety aides (PSAs) are working the Boardwalk in addition to sworn officers and they had been directed to strictly enforce the smoking ordinance.
“Not only do we have more seasonal officers, but we have a full complement of PSAs that will be on the Boardwalk,” he said. “You’ll be able to spot them because they’ll be wearing the bright, reflective vests. You’ll see them in large numbers on the Boardwalk and one of their responsibilities is going to be addressing the smoking issue.”
OCPD Public Information Officer Lindsay Richard said through this week last summer, the department had issued no citations, but 36 citations had been written through Wednesday.
“The first two summers that this ordinance went into effect, our officers focused on educating our citizens rather than enforcing the ordinance with citations,” she said. “… Despite the increase in citations though, the vast majority of the residents and visitors are abiding by the smoking ordinance,” she said. “Our officers have been instructed to issue citations to the few that do not.”