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Ocean City

OCPD sees downward movement in criminal acts

(Dec. 13, 2013) The city’s police activity through November has continued the trend of the past few months, with decreased citizen demand for service and only a few upticks in select segments, amidst a general downward movement in major crime.

According to data released this week by the Ocean City Police Department, this past November saw 8.7 percent less total service calls than November of 2012. While officer-initiated actions dropped 5.5 percent, those initiated by citizen complaints dropped even further at 13.4 percent.

However, these numbers do not include routine actions such as traffic stops, business checks, and public assistance. If these numbers are included, citizen calls still dropped 12.4 percent over the same period last year. But officer-initiated service jumped 11.6 percent, for an overall increase of 5.5 percent.

The OCPD and the city’s elected leadership have previously submitted that the decrease in citizen calls and the increase in officer-initiated activity are linked, with proactive enforcement from officers lessening the number of issues noticed by citizens.

This would point to a strategy often referred to as “quality of life” policing, with officers catching more and more minor violations in order to project a blanket of security and prevent more serious crime from growing.

At a City Council meeting last month, Councilman Brent Ashley asked OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro if this was a strategy that he was specifically initiating.

“I’d like to take all the credit for it, but I can’t,” Buzzuro replied. “Everyone is on board and working very well together. The increase in productivity does come back onto morale and esprit de corps.”

“It does seem like a large uptick,” Ashley said. “Congratulations on that.”

Total arrests in the resort, through the end of November, are down 30 percent from the same period last year. However, some of this does not necessarily represent a decrease in offenses, but only a different categorization of them.

Drug arrests have dropped 55 percent this year, due in part to new state laws which allow officers to issue criminal citations for certain minor offenses, instead of taking offenders into custody for booking at 65th Street.

Marijuana offenses have been heavily impacted by this. According to OCPD data, November 2013 saw 18 custodial drug arrests and nine drug citations issued, which likely would’ve been full arrests before the criminal citation policy was passed in Annapolis. Combined, this total exceeds the 22 drug arrests made in November of last year, prior to the passage of the citation policy.

Most critically, however, crime which falls under the FBI’s “Part 1” classification is down over 13 percent so far this year from 2012. These are major crimes, such as violent assault, burglary, rape, and others, that are reported for national data gathering.

The only category of significant crime which the OCPD has said to be of concern is weapons violations. Arrests for weapons are up 15 percent so far this year, and 74 percent over the 2008-2012 average.

Last year saw a major spike in weapons possession cases, although this could also be linked to increased traffic enforcement. Police have said previously that the majority of violations are found during traffic stops, with many motorists seemingly unaware that they cannot carry unsecured guns or knives in their vehicles.

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