Report Finds Ocean City Crime Hit ’28-Year Low’ In 2018

Report Finds Ocean City Crime Hit ’28-Year Low’ In 2018
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — Serious crime in Ocean City continued to decline to “historic” lows in 2018, according to the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) annual report released this week.

OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the annual crime report for 2018 to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday and the weighty tome revealed crime rates in most statistical categories continued to trend downward last year. Three years ago, Buzzuro raised eyebrows when he reported serious crime had dropped to a 25-year low. Now, three years later, the trends have continued to reach a low not seen in nearly three decades.

“This year, we saw a reduction in serious crime by 14 percent,” he said. “If you look at the five-year average, we’re down 22 percent. In 2015, I reported serious crime was at a 25-year low. After three more years with continued reductions, we’re now at a 28-year low.”

The annual report released this week showed a double-digit decline in serious crime for the fifth straight year, a remarkable achievement for the department according to Buzzuro.

“That number is significant,” he said. “Any time you talk about crime numbers being reduced by double digits, that is significant. What that means is there are a whole lot less victims of crimes. We’re talking in the hundreds in this last year alone. We’re talking about crime levels lower than they have ever been in modern history and we’re very proud of that.”

Not only have crime rates continued to decline at rapid rates in Ocean City, but the department has been able to achieve the results by spending less each year. In 2018 alone, the OCPD total expenses have come in over $684,000 under budget.

“Not only do we have terrific results, but once again we came in under budget to the tune of around $684,000,” said Buzzuro. “We’re under budget by 3 percent and that’s taxpayer money. Over the last three years, we’ve been under budget by over $1 million. As you can see, we’re doing more with less.”

Perhaps the best barometer on which to judge the 2018 annual report is the level of Part I, or the most serious crimes. For example, the number of Part I crimes declined significantly in every statistical category but one including a 40-percent reduction in rape, a 36-percent reduction in robbery, a 45-percent reduction in motor vehicle theft and a 28-percent reduction in both burglary and theft. The only Part I crime that saw an increase in 2018 was aggravated assault, which went up by about 21 percent.

Another key indicator in the report is the number of calls for service during 2018, which went up. The number of citizen calls for service came in at 19,782, while officer-initiated calls for service came in at 54,483 for a total of 74,265. Buzzuro said the number of calls for service was credited to the proactive approach by his department in reducing crime. However, the chief was not ready to rest on his laurels despite the glowing report.

“There is always more work to be done and we always strive to do even better,” he said. “When we look at some of these reductions, we often ask what is an acceptable level? The answer is there is no acceptable level.”

Mayor Rick Meehan praised the chief and his staff for continuing to reduce crime and making Ocean City a safer place to live and visit.

“Thank you for your leadership,” he said. “You should be very proud. I know your people are vested in our community and it shows through with the results in this report.”

Councilman John Gehrig also had high praise for the department and another highly successful year in reducing crime in the resort.

“When talk about strategic planning, we talk about the importance of a clean, safe community,” he said. “You can’t do much better than that.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight said the proliferation of internet and social media sites often casts Ocean City in a bad light when serious crimes are reported, but pointed out she always tries to provide a link to the annual report to counter some of the negative publicity.

“Any time there is a report about a crime on social media, people immediately start posting that Ocean City is crime-ridden and not safe,” she said. “I always provide a link to this report. Every area of Ocean City is safe and this report shows that.”

Maintaining Ocean City as a clean and safe resort is a pillar of the town’s mission statement and comprehensive plan and Council President Lloyd Martin said the annual report reveals the latter is being accomplished.

“When we talk about the importance of keeping Ocean City clean, we always saw one piece of trash is too much,” he said. “The same goes for crime. One crime is too much.”

Buzzuro said it couldn’t be accomplished without the dedication of his staff, from the top brass to the rank-and-file officers and from the support staff and auxiliary officers.

“After achieving yet another year of historic lows in crime, the officers and staff members that make up the Ocean City Police Department continue to exceed my expectations,” commented Chief Ross Buzzuro. “The facts and figures within this report are a testament to their hard work and dedication to keeping this town and its citizens safe.”

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.