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Town eyes urgent action in banning dangerous items

(May 16, 2014) City Council is poised to pass emergency measures against what the Ocean City Police Department has identified as the summer’s biggest scourges – laser pointers, “assisted opening” knives, and people who refuse to give you their date of birth.

On Tuesday, Council voted to move the three proposals to an ordinance reading at the coming Monday night general session.

With the Mayor’s consent, and another favorable vote of council, those ordinances could be passed as emergency measures, effective immediately.

Most critically, the OCPD is proposing to amend the article of the city’s code which prohibits “any person to display, possess, sell, barter, offer to sell, distribute, manufacture, give away, transfer, or dispose of” a number of items that are considered hazardous by the city but not addressed in Maryland’s state-level restrictions.

Added to this list would be so-called “assisted opening” knives – folding knives in which the user opens the knife by articulating a stud or spur attached to the blade. Once the blade is partially unfolded, a spring or tension mechanism releases the blade to full extension and locks it into position, making the knife easier to open with one hand.

“There’s really no need for this particular item…especially the sale of the same on the Boardwalk,” said OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro.

According to police, a number of novelty stores on the Boardwalk have begun selling assisted-opening knives. Lt. Mark Pacini, the department’s patrol commander for the downtown area, showed the council a number of blades he had personally purchased.

“We’re seeing an increase in weapons in our day-to-day dealings with citizens in the community,” Buzzuro said. “These weapons are showing up on people, and in vehicles.”

The number of weapons arrests in 2012 spiked to 112 from just 50 in 2011, and 38 in 2007. Last year saw 109 arrests, 33 of them in June alone. Many of the knives sold on the Boardwalk are clearly intended as showpieces for unruly youth.

However, many common types of pocketknives also feature assisted opening blades, which do have legitimate uses in outdoor and rescue work. The proposed ordinance contains exceptions for OCPD personnel as well as on-duty firemen and EMS providers.

Although this could cause concern for pocketknife-equipped visitors, enforcement will likely be targeted more at disreputable Boardwalk stores and less at law-abiding citizens.

“We believe it’s just best served to not have them available in town,” Buzzuro said.

As part of the city’s code which qualifies for misdemeanor violations, penalties for assisted-opening knives can be up to $500 in fines or up to three months imprisonment.

“I think it’s long overdue,” said Councilman and Police Commission Chair Doug Cymek. “It’s a public safety issue.”

Further, Buzzuro and Pacini requested an amendment that will require anyone being cited for a municipal violation to provide their date of birth. Previously, only name and address were mandated under the city’s provisions of code enforcement. Refusal to give proper identification carries a fine of $1,000 and/or 90 days’ imprisonment.

“Anybody who works in the law enforcement field knows you really need to have the date of birth to indentify anyone in a database,” Pacini said. “You might be able to if they’re in Maryland, but not everyone here is from this state.

“It will help us in following up with people who don’t pay fines and following up with collection agencies.”

Although it was not formally up for discussion, Cymek also suggested that the opportunity be taken for the police to address laser pointers.

“We have had a problem,” Buzzuro said, particularly with complaints from planes and helicopters of lasers being projected into cockpits.

Councilman Brent Ashley said he knew of a Boardwalk business owner who required medical attention after being harassed by youth with laser pointers.

“We’ve had city employees as well, a police officer and a tram driver that I’m aware of,” Cymek said. “It’s time for them to go.”

Ashley motioned that a ban on the sale of laser pointers, although not necessarily their possession, be introduced Monday as well. Mayor Rick Meehan concurred that he would sign the ordinances as emergency measures if the council wished.

“Monday night, they will be effective,” Cymek said.

 

 

A particularly nasty-looking assisted-opening knife, said to be purchased on the Boardwalk by OCPD Lt. Mark Pacini.

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