Text Message Alerts To Police Weighed; Citizen Suggested Idea To Council After Seeing Similar System At Camden Yards

OCEAN CITY — If you see something, say something has been a popular catch phrase since the terror attacks in 2001, but if you see something, text something could become an added security feature in Ocean City in the future.

During the public comment period at Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting, a discussion arose about the continued crime problem in the downtown area during the early weeks of June when so many young people invade the resort. It’s no secret crime spikes up in early June along with all manner of illicit and illegal behavior. It happens every year and this year has been no different, but at least one local resident has offered a possible solution borrowed from a nearby Major League Baseball venue.

“I was at Camden Yards watching an Orioles game and the way they’ve been playing the last few weeks, your mind starts to wander and you notice other things,” local property owner Scott Chismar told the Mayor and Council on Monday. “Well, they put up on the big screen a number to text if you’re having a security issue. It’s a five-digit number to text if you have an issue with somebody in the stands or someone is acting up or out of control. You text the number with a brief message about your issue and security comes right over and handles it if necessary.”

Chismar suggested maybe a similar text message destination could be set up in Ocean City, particularly around the Boardwalk and downtown area, where residents and visitors could anonymously alert police and other departments about issues they observe, potentially providing thousands of extra eyes and ears. He said he has seen and heard how effective it has been at Camden Yards.

“I think it’s been really effective there,” he said. “It’s a nice place to go and bring your family and you don’t see some of the issues you see elsewhere.”

Chismar said most residents and visitors to the resort would like to help when situations arise, but might be reluctant to get directly involved. Providing them with a number to text anonymously might change that perception.

“The vast number of people who come here do so because they love Ocean City,” he said. “Most people are good people and I think if they see something bad happening, I think they would like to help. … We all have cell phones and if you could pick it up and text a number and say ‘hey, you might want to take a look at such and such a street,’ I think people would do that. I think that might get some traction here and make everybody feel a little safer.”

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the text idea had merit. It would likely take some extensive work to implement it and the text number would have to be advertised on interactive message boards, signage and other avenues the town has to reach its visitors, but it could, and maybe should, be explored in the future.

“I think the text number is a good idea and I’m seeing some positive head nodding up here from the council so maybe this is something we should discuss,” he said. “Maybe not for this year, but it is certainly something we can talk about in the future. In this era of technology, you have to use all of the tools in the cabinet and that might just be one of them.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.