This summer marks five years since Ocean City added surveillance cameras to the Boardwalk. The importance of that move was highlighted last weekend when the city’s police department was able to quickly and widely distribute quality images of the suspect sought for stabbing two people in downtown Ocean City.
The high-tech surveillance system acting as a “force multiplier,” in the words of Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, came about as a reactive measure after a serious jump in crime in 2013, particularly on the Boardwalk. Although there had been indications crime was escalating on the Boardwalk beforehand, the summer of 2013 was an especially rough one. While there were numerous acts of random violence, thefts and robberies during that summer, especially in June, one high-profile incident involved a man being stabbed and dumped in a hotel lobby. The victim refused to cooperate with police and would not provide any information because the incident was likely gang related.
Cameras have been on the Boardwalk for many years, but the disturbing incidents of the summer of 2013 led to the purchase and installation of an active system. The cameras in place previously were used for tourism and not monitored by police. The City Watch system in place today is actively monitored by police personnel during the summer season.
That’s why images of the suspect were able to be distributed immediately on social media and news outlets. Those pictures led to a key tip from a hotel employee who recognized the suspect. This week, Buzzuro said, “We would not have the photographs, video evidence and the ability to quickly identify the suspect without our City Watch program.”
Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters took it a step further, saying, “To be honest, without the City Watch program and without the hotel taking extra steps to identify their guests, all of which was done under the advice of the police department, finding this suspect would have been like finding a needle in a haystack …”
These were dollars well spent to upgrade public safety in Ocean City.
A certain amount of litter on the Boardwalk is inevitable because of human nature. People are messy types and that can be confirmed every morning by simply walking the beach and Boardwalk. By and large, I think the city’s public works crews do an admirable job during the early morning hours of getting the town back to presentable after it’s trashed in some respects the night before, especially this time of year.
One aspect of littering receiving a lot of attention this week was cigarette butts on the side streets near the Boardwalk. City officials seem content with their goal of getting smoking off the boards, but they said it “has created a litter problem on our side streets,” according to City Manager Doug Miller. To combat this growing problem, the city is looking to use grant money, “to put the butt huts near existing sign poles on both the north and south sides of the streets. The signs will say ‘no smoking or vaping beyond this point,’ and the receptacles will be depositories for cigarette butts,” according to Public Works Director Hal Adkins.
While the city must do something about the accumulation of cigarette butts near the Boardwalk because it’s become a problem, I’m hopeful a lot of money is not used to address it. I fear no matter what the city does the improper disposal of cigarette butts will always be a problem. Even with easy disposal available on the beach in the designated areas, cigarette butts remain the top piece of beach litter gathered by city crews. Doing nothing is not an option, but the city seems to be on the right track with some small changes – new signs and more consistent butt hutt placements — that do not carry a huge price tag.
Kudos to former Daily Host Jon Stewart for offering compelling testimony before a Congressional subcommittee this week. He was testifying before a poorly attended meeting by elected officials about the reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for those battling illnesses attributed to their heroic work at Ground Zero.
“… as I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress,” he said. “Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a stain on this institution. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here. But you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.
“And I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. But I’m angry, and you should be too, and they’re all angry as well and they have every justification to be that way. There is not a person here, there is not an empty chair on that stage that didn’t tweet out “Never Forget the heroes of 9/11. Never forget their bravery. Never forget what they did, what they gave to this country.” Well, here they are. And where are they? And it would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy were benign, but it’s not. Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. It’s the one thing they’re running out of.”