OCEAN CITY – Police activity, smoking enforcement and recruitment updates highlighted this month’s meeting of the Ocean City Police Commission.
With the summer season underway in Ocean City, resort officials spent the majority of Monday’s police commission meeting reviewing statistics on police activity, smoking citations and seasonal recruitment efforts.
Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro told the commission this week officer calls for service decreased by 10% during the month of May, while citizen calls for service increased by 6.5%.
The police department also reported a 45% increase in the number of traffic stops during the month of May. Buzzuro said the increase was a result of the annual Cruisin event, which in 2018 was marred by inclement weather.
“We had considerably more car stops than we did in May of 2018,” he said, “about 540 more if my math is right.”
Mayor Rick Meehan told Buzzuro the increase in traffic stops showed proactive enforcement measures.
“That’s good,” he said. “I think it shows enforcement is taking place during the event.”
Calls for service during the month of May also highlighted a 40% increase in the number of 911 hang-ups, a 37% increase in the number of parking complaints and violations and an 8% decrease in city ordinance violations.
“Beyond that, there wasn’t too much that was glaring as far as differences in calls for service,” Buzzuro said. “Looking at the numbers, we are mostly in line with where we were last year.”
Buzzuro also presented the commission this week with statistics on smoking citations for the month of May.
In 2015, Ocean City passed an ordinance that banned smoking on the beach and Boardwalk, except within 15 feet of a designated smoking area. While the first two years with the new ordinance focused on outreach and education, the town last year began to change its focus to strict enforcement with fewer warnings.
In 2018, for example, the police department issued 424 smoking citations from the beginning of May through the end of September. Roughly 84% of those citations were issued during the month of June, according to police data.
But this week, Buzzuro said smoking citations on the Boardwalk had decreased slightly during the month of May.
“As you can see for the month of May, we had eight this year and last year we had 10,” he said. “Hopefully, we should see a lot less. There should be a higher rate of compliance.”
Meehan said he had noticed more people smoking at the street ends off the Boardwalk.
“That in and of itself shows the message is coming out,” he said.
Regardless, Meehan said the department should continue to be proactive in its enforcement efforts.
“It doesn’t mean everyone shouldn’t be cited, or at least addressed,” he said.
The commission on Monday also received its final update on seasonal recruitment efforts.
Buzzuro reported the total number of seasonal police officers and public safety aides (PSAs) decreased from 147 in 2018 to 131 in 2019.
The number of seasonal officers decreased from 59 in 2018 to 56 in 2019, while the number of PSAs decreased from 88 in 2018 to 75 in 2019.
And while the police department received fewer applicants for seasonal positions, Buzzuro said the number of applicants who completed training and entered the field had improved.
“We had slightly less in the door, but were able to retain them through the process …,” he said. “We feel strongly that the number of part-time seasonal help is sufficient.”
Commission members also noted the growing number of returning seasonal employees.
“You’ve got more returning PSAs this year than last year,” Council President Lloyd Martin, chair of the commission, said. “That is good.”
Buzzuro also noted the number of PSAs transitioning to seasonal officers positioned had increased. In 2018, eight of the 59 seasonal officers were former PSAs, and this year 15 of the 56 officers were PSAs.
“This is what we want to see …,” he said. “We are headed in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll see that number grow in 2020 and moving forward.”