OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Police Commission this week agreed to pursue a discussion with town officials and legal counsel on how to handle unattended items left on the Boardwalk.
Mayor Rick Meehan told the commission on Monday he had documented several items left on the Boardwalk by street performers in the last week. He said the buskers were using their props to reserve areas and leaving them unattended until they started performing in the afternoons.
“They are setting these things up out there and they are just left out there,” he said.
Council Secretary Mary Knight said the issue was compounded by loitering at the Caroline Street comfort station, where homeless individuals leave their belongings unattended for hours on end.
Councilman Dennis Dare, chair of the commission, said if the town was going to spend millions of dollars on a Boardwalk access control plan – a security measure that would implement barriers at points where vehicles could access the promenade – efforts should be made to remove unattended items.
“If we are going to spend millions of dollars to make the Boardwalk inaccessible to vehicles, why would we allow abandoned property to be on there?” he said.
However, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro noted the complex nature of removing personal property from the Boardwalk.
“We are very careful and cautious when it comes to property that we believe belongs to another individual,” he said. “There’s a process that takes place and that process is time-consuming.”
Buzzuro said suspicious items left unattended would be inspected on site.
“If we’re concerned about items being a potential hazard then we have a duty to render those items safe on scene,” he said. “We’re not going to bring them to PSB (Public Safety Building) to store there.”
Councilman Wayne Hartman questioned if the town had any policy for removing items left on the Boardwalk. Anecdotally, he asked what would happen if a family visiting Ocean City left their beach chairs on the Boardwalk throughout the week.
“How are we going to deal with that situation?” he said. “There’s got to be a policy for something that is left behind.”
While he noted that each case was unique, Buzzuro said the police department would document and store the items until a rightful owner came forward, a process that he said takes time and resources.
“Someone has ownership of that property and although it might be miniscule in value it is still someone else’s property that is coming into our custody,” he said, “so we have a responsibility to make sure that we do whatever we can to get it back to that rightful owner.”
Buzzuro suggested the town speak with legal counsel on how to best handle unattended items on the Boardwalk.
Dare agreed and added that representatives from the police and public works departments should be brought into the discussion.
“We’ll ask that this be scheduled for discussion,” he said.