(July 13, 2018) The following topics were discussed during the Police Commission meeting on Monday:
Ride share safety
The commission also discussed unsafe practices by drivers and passengers of ride share services, such as Uber or Lyft.
The concerns were raised in an email from an Ocean City resident who drives for Uber year round.
In addition to ride share drivers often failing to use signals or flashers when picking up or waiting for passengers, the writer also noted, “drivers picking up and dropping off on Coastal Highway and turning into busy side streets and letting passengers out right as they turned in without trying to pull over.”
Buzzuro said the issue is being monitored.
“On the midnight shift, we are not seeing an alarming uptick, but we are noticing this and we are addressing it,” he said.
Previous to the advent of app-based ride share services, Buzzuro said police typically dealt with a higher percentage of disputes between cab drivers and passengers over fares, or even abusive behaviors.
“There are some positives,” he said.
Boardwalk and beach ordinances
Councilwoman Mary Knight said the enforcement of smoking, and other ordinances, on the beach and Boardwalk has markedly improved.
“I’m encouraged by the number of Public Safety Aides that are reporting smoking, dogs and skateboards … and I see a much better Boardwalk,” she said.
Buzzuro said citations issued for smoking in restricted areas jumped from 32 last June to 354 this year.
“Smoking enforcement is up 1,000 percent,” he said.
Knight said the change is visible.
“You notice by the lack of cigarette butts on the Boardwalk,” she said.
Councilman Wayne Hartman asked if enforcement would remain consistent throughout the summer.
Buzzuro confirmed the focus would remain unchanged.
“The fine was $100 but we reduced it to $50,” he said. “We will continue to be proactive.”
Hartman also asked if verbal warnings are becoming less common than citations.
“Each case is unique [and] we still use discretion,” Buzzuro said.
Mayor Rick Meehan noted the Beach Patrol is also increasing enforcement.
“I was on the beach yesterday and saw guards on patrol on the quads and they were looking for smoking on the beach, alcohol violations [and] dogs,” he said. “They’re not just flying by [but] actually being visible and moving through.”
Hoping to discourage intoxicated people from getting behind the wheel, Hartman proposed the OCPD follow the lead of the Miami Police Department and use an out-of-commission vehicle for a public safety campaign.
“It’s a police car and the back is painted like a taxi,” he said. “It says choose your ride.”
Buzzuro, while supportive of the intent, balked at using a police car.
“We use every vehicle in a deliberate manner, even those that are being ready to be auctioned off,” he said.
From his purview, Buzzuro said it would be preferable to use a retired cab.
“I don’t want to take any police cars to turn them into half of a taxi,” he said. “If it’s a cab that is donated and we … turn it into a police car we haven’t lost any resources and [could] possibly gain something you want to accomplish in public awareness.”
Meehan proposed finding a prime location, possibly on the Route 90 bridge, to place the vehicle for the duration of summer.
“It’s a public safety message,” he said.
The commission voted unanimously to move the proposal to the full council for consideration.
Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said citizen calls for service in June were down almost 15 percent from the previous year, with nearly 600 fewer calls.
“The violations are consistent with last year,” he said. “Slightly lower, but in a sense tailored to established priorities.”
The downtick in citizen calls allowed police more time to monitor traffic, Buzzuro said.
“Traffic stops were considerably increased from last year [and] that’s because we have to do less calls for service,” he said.
Disorderly conduct arrests also dropped significantly, from 991 last June to 712 this year, with theft cases being reduced from 221 to 169.
“We’re being very proactive on the Boardwalk,” he said.
Although still awaiting the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for June, Buzzuro anticipates the data will indicate some major crimes were reduced.
“We expect to continue the downward trend as we move into the second half of the year,” he said.