Cruisin’ participants, fans told have fun, but be safe

(May 17, 2019) The message to Cruisin’ Ocean City participants during a Police Commission meeting on Monday was clear: you’re welcome to come, but you can’t break the law.

Poor weather last year contributed to a relatively calm and uneventful Cruisin’. But there has been increased scrutiny on motor events in the resort since 2017, when the unsanctioned H2O International event in particular brought an especially rowdy crowd that angered city officials and many residents.

The creation of a special Motor Events Task Force in December 2017,  however, has led to businesses this year committing additional personnel and security on their premises, while police are working on known “problem areas.” Mayor Rick Meehan said the chamber of commerce and hotel-motel-restaurant association have pledged to help provide accommodations for additional police at no cost to the town.

Additionally, Meehan said a trailer ordinance is now in effect. From May 1 to Oct. 31, trailers and oversized vehicles are banned from parking on public streets. Police Chief Ross Buzzuro added state police were committing “somewhat more” resources for Cruisin’ than they did a year ago.

“All in all, the task force has worked to try to the put the things in place that are necessary,” Meehan said. “The event operator is holding the event out at the racetrack on Friday night to try to disperse some of the crowds. He also has events scheduled both Fridays and Saturdays at the U.S. 13 Dragway [in Delmar].

“We’re actually hoping that some of those that possibly came to town previously that weren’t part of the event but just wanted to … express themselves, will do so and not even come into town,” Meehan continued. “Those are all [good] things.

 “We didn’t get a true read on [the event] last year, I think, because of the weather. I wouldn’t be upset if the weather is the same this year,” he added.

Meehan

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, right, and Police Chief Ross Buzzuro discuss the upcoming Cruisin' event during a Police Commission meeting Monday. 

Meehan said many different agencies had come together to try and improve this and other motor events in the town, which he admitted are “under the gun.”

To people attending the event, Meehan offered, “We welcome you to Ocean City. We want you to come to Ocean City, but you have to obey our laws – and that means all of our laws.”

“That will make the event a safer event, a better event, and allow it to continue,” he said.

Last year, Meehan said he received a number of emails from people who were angered by increased rules and enforcement, and threatened to not come back “because we’re not allowing you to break the law.”

“Good luck,” Meehan said. “Treat them with kindness, but, in fact, if their complaint is we’re requiring them to obey the law, then so be it.

With this and other events ramping up into the busy season, Buzzuro also gave an update on increases to the department’s seasonal workforce, which will include an additional 62 seasonal police officers and 82 public safety aides. Police have lost four people since the initial hiring, he added.

“Right now we’re just about at full strength, at 144 [extra workers] going into the season,” Buzzuro said.

He said returning public safety aides would start Memorial Day weekend and returning seasonal officers would start May 19. New public safety aides start May 30 and new seasonal officers start June 3. Buzzuro said 17 seasonal police officers were returning, while 45 are new.

Meehan noted the Special Event Zone went into effect on Tuesday, meaning lower speed limits and higher rates of fines. He said warning signs had been in place since last week and lower speed limits on Coastal Highway would be changed on signs Tuesday morning.

Also during the meeting, City Council President Lloyd Martin asked about police enforcement on the Boardwalk, noting Councilman Tony DeLuca’s preference of enforcing no-smoking laws.

Councilwoman Mary Knight added she’s recently seen many people not cleaning up after their dogs in the beach and Boardwalk area. In Ocean City, animals are only allowed on the beach and Boardwalk between Oct. 1 and April 30.

“This one man, I almost said something to him this weekend … but he was a lot bigger than me,” Knight said with a laugh. “That’s what I’m seeing. The smoking, I am not seeing.”

Meehan encouraged police to engage with the public, even over minor infractions.

“If officers just don’t notice it, or notice it but just keep walking if somebody is smoking or if somebody has a dog … although it’s very minor, it’s a credibility issue,” he said. “In the eyes of the public, it looks like … the officer isn’t paying attention.”

Meehan said the interaction could be as simple as police telling someone what the rules are on smoking, or cleaning up after a pet.

“If people see that, they think it’s an avoidance by our officers,” he said. “So, I would hope that the word goes down that, it can be politely handled. It doesn’t have to be an arrestable offense – it doesn’t even have to be a fine if somebody is truly unaware [of the law].

“But, at the same time, just the acknowledgment, just the fact that the officer walked over … makes all the difference in the world.”

Buzzuro said that was absolutely the direction he is giving to police.

“That’s what I thought,” Meehan said. “I just want to make sure that everybody realized that that is the intent of our officers. And if that can be emphasized … it really makes a difference.”

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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