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OCPD forms Special Enforcement Unit for plainclothes work

(Sept. 20, 2013) The Ocean City Police Department announced this week that it has established a new element within the department – known as the Special Enforcement Unit – to serve as a go-between for plainclothes operations.

“The new Special Enforcement Unit will act as a stepping stone between our Patrol Division and our Criminal Investigation Division,” OCPD Chief Buzzuro said in a release. “The unit will look very closely at growing crime trends in various areas of Ocean City and serve as proactive crime fighters.”

According to OCPD Information Officer Mike Levy, plainclothes work is typically carried out by the CID, which oversees the department’s detectives. However, plainclothes work that involves monitoring a given area or neighborhood is typically a function coordinated by the Patrol Division, which pulls officers for the task as needed.

“We’ve always had officers working in plainclothes capacities, but we’ve never had a full-time group,” Levy said.

When the Patrol Division’s coverage calls for plainclothes work, it typically details undercover-trained officers from the CID, taking them out of their other functions. The SEU will now provide a dedicated pool of officers to conduct plainclothes operations.

“This takes it to the next level,” Levy said. “Patrol will be able to conduct an operation without having to pull a detective from the rest of the CID.”

For instance, SEU personnel could be used if the Patrol Division wished to do undercover monitoring of areas where burglaries are known to occur over the winter.

“You couldn’t put a uniformed patrol officer or a marked car there because then everybody would know,” Levy said. “You’d want to establish surveillance with plainclothes officers.”

Although working between divisions, the SEU will remain under the administrative control of the CID. No new officers will be hired specifically for the unit, although the formation of the group will involve some transfers and promotions.

“The costs had to be handled within their existing budget, so we will not be increasing the budget to handle those costs,” said city Budget Manager Jennie Knapp. “They’re going to figure out how to fund the unit through their regular operating accounts.”

The formation of the SEU is the second major OCPD operational initiative in the past few weeks. Last month, Buzzuro and Mayor Rick Meehan began to promote the department’s plan to increase the number of surveillance cameras in the resort.

The completion of the final phase of Boardwalk reconstruction in the spring saw 12 additional cameras placed on the boards, as well as a fiber optic network that will be able to support more cameras throughout the downtown area.

Although the cameras are currently not monitored in real-time, Levy said the department has floated plans to do so in the future.

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