A preliminary report released by the Ocean Pines Police Department last week shows a sharp drop in serious crime in the community in 2014.
For the second straight year, Ocean Pines experienced no instances of criminal homicide or robbery. In addition, cases of aggravated assault dropped from 30 in 2013 to just eight last year.
Instances of breaking and entering/burglary fell from 35 to 25 during that same span, while larceny/theft decreased from 112 cases to 72. One case of forcible rape was included in the report in 2014. No instances were reported the pervious year.
The across-the-board decrease in crime is especially notable considering an increase in calls for service, up from 11,158 two years ago to 12,402 in 2014. Total arrests also rose from 139 to 193, a 39 percent increase.
“We had a very busy year, but the officers did a great job as far as being aggressive,” Police Chief David Massey said.
A former chief of police in Ocean City, Massey speculated that the decrease in crime is the largest during his 11 years in Ocean Pines.
Massey said the department improved on criminal investigations in part by assigning a second officer to that area, while adding focus to increasing traffic stops.
“There have been studies that have shown one in 10 traffic stops results in some kind of criminal activity,” Massey said. “The officers have picked up traffic stops, they’ve been aggressive in enforcing the laws and it does make a difference. My experience in Ocean City proved that when the officers are busy and being proactive instead of reactive you have a positive impact on the crime rate.”
That’s not to say police can cover every variable.
“I can remember one year in Ocean City when one burglar committed 82 burglaries, and it turned out it was a middle-aged man in a three-piece suit,” he said. “My crime stats that year were pretty bad.
“Crime stats tend to go up and down,” Massey continued. “This has been a good year for us, which probably portends next year will be an increase. When you get near the bottom there’s only one place to go, and that’s up. But I’m very proud of the job the officers did. They’ve worked very hard and this is the benefit from it, and the community benefits from it too.”
Total traffic accidents fell 23 percent, from 109 in 2013 to 84 last year. Traffic control, on the other hand, rose sharply.
Instances of written warnings grew more than 100 percent, from 1,040 to 2,154 during a one-year span. Traffic citations increased from 273 to 460, and total traffic stops grew from 1,596 in 2013 to 2,614 in 2014.
“One of the major complaints that we get in Ocean Pines is speeding and reckless driving,” Massey said. “It’s 70 miles of roads we have in Ocean Pines, and our main artery is [Ocean Parkway]. It’s where the accidents occur. It’s where the complaints occur and the officers are out there on patrol.”
Massey said the statistics were buoyed by the fact that the department was “at full strength” for the majority of the year in terms of staffing.
The Ocean Pines Police Department carries a total staff of 21, including four dispatchers, one part-time dispatcher and one part-time officer. The department fielded more than 12,000 service calls last year.