(June 14, 2019) Despite a small dip in seasonal staffing numbers, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said crime statistics from last month are in line with last year’s data and stressed the importance of community involvement to assist officers.
Buzzuro said the number of seasonal officers and public safety aides hired this year (131 total, including 100 patrol officers) is a bit below the 147 (which included 114 patrol officers) brought on board last summer.
“We’re able to have slightly less through the door but we’re able to retain them through the process,” he said.
Also the number of returning seasonal officers dropped to 16 this year compared to 18 during 2018, Buzzuro said.
The number of public safety aides on patrol also dropped a tad, going from 55 in 2018 to 44 this year.
“We feel strongly that the number of part-time seasonal help is sufficient in the field and also inside,” he said.
City Council President Lloyd Martin, who serves on the Police Commission, noted there were a few more retuning PSAs this year versus 2018.
Mayor Rick Meehan, after confirming there were three fewer seasonal officers hired this year, 56 compared to 59 in 2018, confirmed the department is budgeted for a maximum of 148 seasonal hires.
“We have more PSAs becoming police officers (and)
we want to see those continue,” Buzzuro said.
That group included 15 members, or about 27 percent of staff total, this year compared to eight, or about 15 percent of staffing, in 2018.
“We’re moving in the direction we’ve spoken about,” he said.
Switching to crime statistics, Buzzuro said a few recent spikes were noted from last month versus the last year.
“If you look at the top 25 calls for service throughout the month of May, we had considerably more number of car stops than we did last year,” he said.
Last month OCPD conducted 1,721 traffic stops compared to 1,181 during May 2018.
Also parking violations issued jumped from 227 last May to 311 this past month.
Buzzuro said 911 hang-up calls increased about 50 percent, with 328 recorded last month compared to 234 last May, while malicious destruction of property incidents bumped up from 29 during May 2018 to 56 last month.
“We did see a drop off in city ordinance violations,” he said.
Slight upticks were noted with DUI arrests, which grew from 31 last May to 37 this May, with drug arrests also growing from 18 to 24 during the same time period.
“The numbers are in line with where we were last year,” he said.
Boardwalk smoking and vaping violations dropped from 10 last May to eight this May.
“We should see a higher degree of compliance,” he said.
Based on last year, when 375 smoking violations were recorded in June, Buzzuro said next month would likely see an increased number of incidents.
“We hope to see less,” he said.
Meehan said the number of people partaking of tobacco or vaping products on the Boardwalk has shown a marked decrease.
“It still doesn’t mean everyone that’s seen shouldn’t be cited, or at least addressed,” he said.
Noting that June typically presents challenges for OCPD, Meehan also praised the City Watch surveillance camera system after a suspect wanted in connection with a stabbing incident Sunday on the Boardwalk by Caroline Street was identified after video images were released to the media.
“I was up on the Boardwalk and saw a strong police presence the last couple of days,” he said. “It’s a challenging couple of weeks with all the young people in town.”
Meehan also said critical public comments following the release of the suspect’s picture fail to grasp the importance of seeking community assistance.
“That was out there to show that everybody could assist the police department in solving these issues,” he said. “Things are going to happen, but we minimize that.”