But tells City Council resort won’t be able to arrest its way out of this trouble

(June 19, 2020) As Ocean City’s elected officials seek solutions to rowdy and violent behavior that occurs every June and with the unsanctioned car event known as H2Oi, the Ocean City Police Department is attempting to do its best with a seemingly impossible hurdle to overcome. 

“We can arrest people, and arrest and arrest, do as much enforcement as we possibly can. We can work 12, 15 hours a day virtually every day of the week … [but] we’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of this situation,” Police Chief Ross Buzzuro told the mayor and City Council Monday night.

The police department has had its hands full attempting to quell seemingly endless violence and reckless behavior of the last couple of weeks.

Beginning last Sunday, June 7, reports surfaced that multiple people were involved in an altercation that resulted in a stabbing on Sixth and Seventh streets on the Boardwalk. 

Then, the next day a video of teens overtaking the road near 11th Street and clambering over a moving vehicle made waves online.

Activity continued into Tuesday, after two serious assaults occurred on the Boardwalk around 11th and 16th streets. 

Wednesday featured a crowd of teens brawling on Fourth Street and the Boardwalk, with one teen, who seemed to have thrown the first punch, brutally beaten. 

Although a bystander recorded the event, no one called police until three minutes after the fight broke out, a press release said. 

Police have since identified the assault victim, who said he did not sustain any serious injuries. 

He has not cooperated with police in the investigation, however, and police seek the public’s aid in identifying suspects. 

Witnesses are asked to contact

Thursday’s activity took some by surprise, as violence trickled past downtown Ocean City limits and into West Ocean City, where a man was violently beaten and his girlfriend held to the ground in the West Ocean City Outlets’ parking lot. 

Soon after, multiple police agencies went to a nearby Chipotle in response to reported attack on the staff. 

A Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack press release said two males entered the restaurant without their masks, and grew agitated when staff asked them to cover their faces. 

The two left, but shortly returned with a third male and destroyed property inside the restaurant — they reportedly threw a canned drink, ice and bottles at employees, while jumping on the counter. 

One suspect was arrested as he attempted to flee the area. 

From last Thursday to Sunday, Ocean City police arrested 129 people. 

Last Wednesday, the Ocean City Police Commission held an emergency closed session, and decided to seek allied agency assistance to increase enforcement throughout the resort. 

“The Ocean City Police Department has increased law enforcement presence on the Boardwalk and throughout town by 25 percent in response to various incidents that have occurred in the last few weeks in Ocean City,” a department press release said. “In order to keep residents and visitors safe, the department has redeployed officers and increased the presence of allied agencies.” 

Allied agencies include the Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack and the Worcester County Sheriff’s office. 

Police are also being more aggressive with enforcement, as exemplified by the 129 arrests — the same weekend last year had 95 arrests. 

Those arrested varied in age, with many in their early to mid-20s or early 30s, somewhat demystifying the popular notion that the culprits were solely “June bugs” or high school seniors celebrating beach week. 

“The kind of behavior we’ve seen recently will not be tolerated and arrests will be made,” Buzzuro said in a video statement. 

Buzzuro reiterated his stance during Monday night’s Ocean City Council meeting, during which members of the public vented about the apparent lack of action to address and curb the behavior. 

Buzzuro said he is a perennial optimist and highlighted his department’s successes, such as historically low crime rates since his tenure began in 2015. 

Nonetheless, “We’re moving in the right direction, but perception is reality,” Buzzuro said. “All of that is out of the door when we talk about two things: June and let’s just call it H2Oi. They’re beyond our Achilles heel, they’re really damaging and destroying this town; we all know it.” 

The police chief went on, stating the city needed more than just increased enforcement — a point Councilman John Gehrig had made earlier. 

“We’re doing the very, very best that we can and I don’t think anyone would dispute that, but there are limitations,” Buzzuro said. “I don’t have the answer for everything and you know what? This is on my watch.” 

Nevertheless, Buzzuro said the police department would have to keep an optimistic outlook and step up to the challenge. 

“We have to press forward, we have to move on. Leadership in good times is easy, [in] prosperous times are easy,” Buzzuro said. “When you’re in the bad times, the tough times, when you’re facing battle, the real testament of leadership is what are you going to do [during those bad times].”

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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