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OC police to re-configure dispatch reports amidst trouser row

(July 12, 2013) In a move likely to increase tension over Councilman Brent Ashley’s desire for a public debate about crime in the resort, the city Police Commission this week noted that the total number of arrests per shift will no longer be given out on the daily dispatch reports issued to council.

But the commission also pointed out that more specific and complete information is already available to the public via the Ocean City Police Department’s online portal.

Top city officials regularly receive what are known as CAD reports, an acronym for computer-aided dispatch, which feature notifications on arrests, calls for service, and other emergency action through a given time span.

In recent weeks, Ashley has questioned why the reports seem to be inconsistent in style and inclusiveness. However, it was unclear until recently how the reports are actually generated.

“I had initially responded to Brent that the inconsistency must be because of a computer glitch, because it was my impression that the reports were automated,” explained City Manager David Recor. “But in speaking with [Emergency Services Director] Joe Theobald, I understand that these reports are compiled by individual shift supervisors at the call center.”

“Depending on the shift supervisor, they may or may not include some or all of the arrest info,” Recor said. “I didn’t want to give out incomplete information … Joe and I made the decision that we would simply provide calls for service [and not arrests].”

Given that many situations evolve over time and occur across multiple shifts, Councilman and commission chair Doug Cymek said that arrest numbers on a CAD report immediately after a shift are likely inaccurate.

“I think it gives an unrealistic impression,” Cymek said. “I’m not sure why he’s so concerned about arrest statistics.”

“There is a subjectiveness to each supervisor,” Theobald said.

The OCPD’s police-to-citizens portal account, found at http://p2c.ocpdmd.com, provides a real-time blotter of incidents as they are logged into the system by officers, Cymek said.

Still, Ashley said later this week that he would prefer to get some net numbers in order to be able to answer any public concern about crime.

“It’s about public perception and being able to understand your constituents,” he said.

The commission also reviewed the department’s calls for June 2013, noting that the total number of incidents logged was down 6.3 percent, from 17,391 last June to 16,300.

This number includes all police actions, including traffic stops, which dominate the list with 3,348 calls. It also includes 1,010 business checks, in which patrol officers visit establishments to see if proprietors are having any security or safety issues.

“That’s a pro-active thing that they’re doing themselves, so I’m not really sure they’re ‘calls for service,’” Mayor Rick Meehan said.

“It’s good to track, but it is inflating the call numbers and it isn’t really a call per se,” agreed Police Chief Ross Buzzuro.

This season’s policing statistics are also somewhat difficult because of the state’s new law on criminal citations, in which certain crimes do not require the arrestee to be taken into custody and arraigned. Instead, officers may issue on-the-spot citations for criminal charges.

For instance, the OCPD made 255 full arrests for drugs in June, but issued another 304 criminal citations.

“Last year, those all would’ve been full custodial arrests,” said Capt. Greg Guiton. “The officers now go through a list of qualifying crimes and a number of questions and observations to determine if this person meets the criteria for a citation instead of a full arrest.”

Despite a select few high-profile incidents in June, Councilman Dennis Dare remarked that the net number of violent incidents seemed consistently low.

“It still surprises me that, out of these thousands of calls, the actual crimes against people are only a handful,” he said.

“Honestly, it just felt like it was quieter at my store in June,” said Council President Lloyd Martin, who owns a 7-Eleven on 120th Street. “These numbers are good to see, since someone was intimating that we had a crime problem or a rash of crime in June.”

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