OCEAN CITY – Ocean City’s police chief this week said location checks and addressing potential executive order violations contributed to a significant increase in officer calls for service last month.
On Monday, Ocean City Police Department Chief Ross Buzzuro briefed the Ocean City Police Commission on police activity for the month of April.
Last month, officer calls for service increased from 1,095 calls in April 2019 to 3,904 calls in April 2020, marking a 256% increase.
“A majority of the calls for service on the officer side were for public health concern …,” Buzzuro said.
In the top 25 calls for service, the department reported 2,149 calls related to “public health concern,” a new designation code created by the department this year to address location checks and potential violations related to Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive orders on COVID-19.
“That’s the officers being diligent in their duties, going business to business and checking to make sure they were in compliance with the governor’s orders and with the mayor’s orders in the month of April,” Buzzuro said.
In April, citizen calls for service decreased from 935 in 2019 to 521 in 2020. In the top 25 calls for service, citizen assists decreased from 153 to 99, suspicious person or activity decreased from 89 to 72, and 911 hang ups decreased from 163 to 54. However, city ordinance violations increased from 25 to 81.
“Most of the calls for service were considerably lower this year,” Buzzuro said.
Buzzuro also noted that custodial arrests during the month of April decreased from 100 in 2019 to 19 in 2020. Additionally, drug citations for marijuana decreased from 29 to 2 and DUI arrests decreased from 23 to 0.
“Everything is related to COVID-19, so that’s what we are attributing all of these decreases across the board to …,” he said.
Council President Lloyd Martin, chair of the commission, commended the police officers for their work in making sure businesses were compliant with the executive orders.
“It shows the officers are being proactive, and we appreciate that,” he said.
The police chief on Monday also provided the Police Commission with an update on seasonal recruitment. As of April 29, the department reported having 51 sworn seasonal officers and 68 public safety aides for the coming summer.
“Although we will be down about 30%, we will still have a number of seasonal police officers and public safety aides this summer,” Buzzuro said.
Buzzuro noted the department faced hiring challenges this spring. He explained the department lost some candidates from New York and New Jersey as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the end, signing on the dotted line was difficult and problematic,” he said, “so we did lose some of the applicants for reasons we can attribute to the pandemic.”
However, Buzzuro said the department still managed to find enough seasonal officers and public safety aides.
“Having close to 120 people giving us a helping hand during the summer is nothing short of miraculous,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan applauded Buzzuro and his department for their efforts.
“I think they did a tremendous job …,” he said. “I think we will be in good shape this summer season.”