Commentary

printed 10/02/2020

It’s a year too early to declare either the success or the failure of law enforcement’s attempt last week to quell the anarchy of the modified foreign car rally in Ocean City.

While both praise and condemnation have been deposited at the doorstep of the Ocean City Police Department, which did its utmost to eliminate this rally’s dangerous and noxious aspects, no one can say with certainty whether it succeeded until this time next year.

If no “pop-up” (as in uninvited) event occurs, then the work of the department, as well as that of the county sheriff’s office, Maryland State Police and others did what everyone hoped it would do.

If local and state law enforcement agencies have only to contend with a significantly reduced infestation and a better behaved crowd, that too would qualify as a success.

Anything less than that, however, would mean some changes in strategy are needed, and not necessarily those involving stiffer penalties or some of the more extreme ideas of how to protect the police. The problem this year was not in the penalties, it was the numbers: thousands of people desperate to be noticed, by anyone, versus hundreds of police.

Success also can be defined in different ways. The police made many more arrests, issued more citations and towed scores more vehicles than they did the year before. In that regard, the crackdown on lawbreakers did what it set out to do.

Residents, however, probably care less about how many arrests or tows were instituted than they do about stopping the engine revving, backfiring and the unmuffled cacophony of small cars redlining from one traffic light to another.

Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said this week he believes the department and its allies sent a message to this crowd that Ocean City will not tolerate this kind of behavior. He could be right, too, judging from post-event comments from many of the participants.

If they, along with the offenders who found themselves paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and tow fees, stay away next year, then this year’s enhanced enforcement will have succeeded.

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