(Sept. 14, 2018) The number of major crimes dropped significantly so far in 2018, but citations are up in one area: Ocean City Police have issued roughly 500 percent more citations for smoking on the beach and Boardwalk than they did last summer.
Police Chief Ross Buzzuro reported this week in addition to increased vigilance for tobacco or vaping use in restricted areas, the overall number of ordinance violations has topped 2,700 through August, as compared to more than 1,500 at the same point last year.
“At the start of summer, this was a priority and there was virtually no tolerance for smoking on the Boardwalk,” he said. “In June [citations] were up 1,000 percent.”
During the Police Commission meeting on Monday, Buzzuro said 375 people were cited in June for smoking violations, as compared to 32 the previous June.
Those figures dropped precipitously in July and August when 54 smoking citations were issued, with the three-month tally reaching 411. Last year, 63 citations were issued for the summer.
Councilman Wayne Hartman questioned June’s surge dropping for the rest of the summer. Buzzuro replied that the big dip resulted from efforts to inform guests about the restrictions.
“It was a top priority in June … as we moved to July … the message was out, and we saw less citations that needed to be issued,” he said. “The numbers bear that out … we’re up 500 percent in enforcement.”
Councilman Dennis Dare added that June visitors tend to be younger than the crowd that comes later in the summer, and seasonal police and public safety aids are more visible.
“There is more enforcement and a demographic that tends to smoke and not read signs as much,” he said.
Councilwoman Mary Knight said police efforts have considerably reduced exposure to second-hand smoke for visitors and residents on the Boardwalk.
“I believe that it’s consistent, the education and enforcement,” she said. “I see a lot less smoking.”
While the current emphasis on enforcing the Boardwalk and beach smoking ban has yielded eye-catching statistics, Buzzuro said there is still room for improvement.
“We still have some work to do as far as people making the decision to smoke on the Boardwalk,” he said.
Buzzuro also reported that during June OCPD logged the fewest major crimes, which are included in FBI national Uniform Crime Reports.
“In June, we recorded the lowest amount of UCRs since we’ve been recording, which goes back to 2002,” he said.
FBI Uniform Crime Reports compile both volume and rates of violent and property crime nationwide.
“That’s recorded and memorialized for review even beyond us,” he said. “Everybody can see from a crime standpoint what’s been happing in Ocean City.”