OCEAN CITY – Ocean City’s police chief said a change in deployment had some effect on police activity reported last month.
On Monday, Ocean City Police Department Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the Ocean City Police Commission with an update on department activity for the month of May, which recorded an overall decrease in calls for service.
Buzzuro told commission members some of the top calls for service, including traffic stops, city ordinance violations and disorderly, had decreased from May 2019.
“Really 2020 was an anomaly because of COVID …,” he said. “Of the top 25 calls for service, we’re not seeing anything alarming to us as we press forward into June.”
Buzzuro told officials this week he attributed changes in police activity to changes in deployment.
“Our activities have been somewhat different …,” he said. “There’s heavy deployment on the Boardwalk, which has to bear into these numbers here being greatly reduced. So if there’s an explanation, it would be that. It’s just a retailoring of our duties and responsibilities, moving personnel from the north end to the south end for placement on the Boardwalk.”
Buzzuro also noted that custodial arrests had increased nearly 20%, from 284 in 2019 to 333 in 2021. While the number of drug arrests remained the same, DUI arrests increased from 37 to 47 and weapons arrests increased from eight in May 2019 to 31 in May 2021, representing a 288% increase. There were six weapon arrests in May 2020. Of the 31 weapon arrests in May 2021, the breakdown included nine firearms, 11 knives and 13 other.
The department also reported a significant increase in smoking citations, from eight in May 2019 to 162 in May 2021. Year-to-date smoking citations total 178 compared to 115 after five months in 2020 and eight in 2019.
“This follows the direction where we are strictly enforcing the ordinances,” he said.
Councilman and committee member Peter Buas questioned if the police department had issued any citations based on the town’s new noise ordinance. Buzzuro said it hadn’t.
“I think we’ve been able to mitigate each one of those issues we come across,” he said.
Buzzuro told commission members this week his department continues to be proactive as it works through the month of June. He noted a lot of the attention had been directed to the Boardwalk.
“So far, at the north end we’ve had minimal issues,” he said. “A lot of issues we’ve had have been dealt with and mitigated at the south end.”
He added he was also pleased with the level of enforcement and noted arrests had been made in most of the department’s high-priority cases.
Councilman Matt James applauded Buzzuro and the police officers for their efforts.
“Going down the Boardwalk the last number of nights, it’s a big difference from last year,” he said. “The heavy presence is very nice.”
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed.
“And that’s what we’re hearing from the Boardwalk businesses too,” he added. “They’ll tell you they see the presence. Their presence has probably deterred a lot of events from occurring.”
Over the off-season, littering was targeted in Ocean City as a problem area with a new marketing campaign eyed for this summer. As far as enforcement on the Boardwalk thus far, there have been five littering citations issued compared to one after five months in 2020 and seven in all of last year.