(July 25, 2014) Of all the ways to measure how many people are in town, the number of folks who get zapped in a given month probably isn’t the most telling.
Nevertheless, City Council allowed its ongoing tensions over the resort’s tourism performance to bleed over this week into the Ocean City Police Department’s monthly report on Taser usage.
The department logged 23 instances in June where officers drew their devices – known in the industry as Conducted Electrical Weapons, or CEWs. Out of those, 10 incidents resulted in the weapon actually being fired.
The OCPD uses Tasers which project a set of steel barbs attached to wires, in order to deliver the shock at a distance from the suspect.
This is relatively high incidence, given that there were only 16 Taser firings in all of 2013.
Councilman Brent Ashley questioned OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro why this would be the case, given that the city’s demoflush numbers – which track population by wastewater usage – were down to an average of 214,003 people per weekend in June, versus 225,785 last year. Less people but more altercations would suggest the city is bringing an unruly crowd in June.
But Council Secretary Mary Knight posited that the city’s hotel occupancy for establishments included in the Smith Travel Report was up 5.6 percent – which would suggest that Taser incidents have merely increased as tourism has been more successful.
Ashley and Knight were, predictably, on opposite sides of the coin two weeks ago when it came to MGH Advertising, the city’s marketing agent. Council ultimately voted five-to-two to renew MGH’s contract for three years instead of doing a competitive re-bid, after having caused some controversy earlier by trying to make the move in a closed-door meeting.
Increased Taser activity could also be attributed to the OCPD’s heightened presence this June, which won round praise from elected officials and business owners.
“I think the department has been more proactive this year rather than reactive,” said Council President Lloyd Martin.
“We all know there were a lot of complaints last June about crime, but this year I have gotten zero,” Ashley agreed.
Total enforcement by the OCPD in June was actually down, with a 6.9 percent decrease in officer-initiated actions and a 3.9 percent decrease in citizen calls.
Notably, four of the 10 CEW firings in June were the result of attempted marijuana arrests, a dynamic which may change considerably once the state’s decriminalization goes into effect.
June’s Smith Travel Report also indicated that Ocean City’s average room rate declined 1.4 percent over June 2013, the only decline amongst the resort’s competitor set. But even with the drop, Ocean City still has the highest average rate, at $175.86 per night.
Revenue per available room in the resort, occupied or not, saw an increase of 4.1 percent over June of last year.
This was in the middle of the competitor set, beating out Virginia Beach, the Jersey Shore, and the Coastal Carolina region, but behind Atlantic City, Myrtle Beach, and the Delaware beaches.