OCPD releases annual crime report for 2022, prepares for busy summer season
OCEAN CITY, Md. – Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) releasing its annual crime report, and setting goals for the summer season.
Calls For Service Down, Traffic Accidents Low
In 2022, OCPD saw 65,699 calls for service, including business checks. Calls for service can include traffic stops, residential security checks, lost children, or major criminal activity, just to name a few. However, that number is down since 2018.
“One of the biggest things, is we’ve been very proactive. So, we do see that decline in citizens’ calls for service because our officers are out there. They’re proactive, and they’re handling things before it becomes an issue that makes a citizen want to call into the police department,” said OCPD spokesperson, Ashley Miller.
Another statistic that saw steady, yet low numbers in Ocean City, was reportable traffic accidents.
“We’ve partnered with Maryland State Highway [Administration], and we’ve really been pushing the walk smart, drive smart, bike smart program,” said Miller. “We also have a lot of different options, whether you take the beach bus, ride shares, or taxis. I think a lot of people are choosing to have smart options with getting around and enjoying a lot of the bar and restaurant establishments in Ocean City.”
Another change that came in 2022 for OCPD, was the adoption of upgraded taser models, which link to officers’ body-worn cameras. As of 2022, each OCPD officer is equipped with a body-worn camera. Now, when officers remove their taser from its holster, the body-worn camera is triggered, and automatically starts recording.
“Say you’re in a situation where you need to use a taser. You’re going to then be having that additional backup. So, their cameras may not be activated yet. But, once they draw that, it activates those cameras in a certain radius,” said Miller. “You’re able to get multiple views to that use of force situation, not just from the officer using the taser, but anybody else on the scene. We’re able to go back and look at different camera views and get a full 360 of that situation.”
Miller says the implementation of the body-worn cameras has also helped officers to de-escalate certain situations.
“We saw a big decrease in the number of officers assaulted, and the number of our taser uses is down from 2021,” said Miller. “We think that is contributed to by the body worn cameras. Even our officers out on patrol have reported that they may get to the scene, and have somebody very angry. But, once they do know that they are being recorded, temperaments change.”
Unified Crime Reporting
During 2022, OCPD continued its use of the Unified Crime Reporting (UCR) program. The system has provided crime statistics since 1930, and illuminates the most serious crimes committed. Those crimes include eight part one crimes, including criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, burglary, larceny/theft, and motor vehicle theft.
Between 2021 and 2022, UCR data shows that OCPD saw a 38% decrease in forcible rape, a 20% decrease in aggravated assault, a 13% decrease in simple assault, and a 1% decrease in burglary. Other statistics jumped, however. Robbery rose 90%, motor vehicle theft rose 50%, and larceny/theft rose by 11%.
“Overall, with our Uniform Crime Reporting numbers, we did see a decrease by 4%. Uniform Crime Reporting captures the most serious of offenses, or part one crimes. There’s about eight that make up that part one,” said Miller.
The vast majority of those crimes were committed in just three months, says Miller. Miller attributes the spike to Ocean City’s transient nature. The town is home to between 6,000 and 7,000 year-round residents. However, summer tourism often balloons that number to up to 300,000.
“59% out of all of those numbers come during June, July, and August. So, over half of our crime statistics that we deal with all year occur in that short three month time, which we can attribute to the very transient nature of Ocean City, because our population goes up so drastically,” said Miller.
Switching to a Different System
In order to give OCPD a better idea of what kind of crimes are being committed in which areas, the agency is gearing up to switch to a new data system. The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIRBS) captures details on every single crime incident. It also tracks separate offenses within the same incidents.
“That captures so much more than just those eight crimes, the way that things get reported,” said Miller. “Under NIBRS, we’re now able to categorize all of the incidences that occur.”
Miller says using NIRBS rather than UCR could help the agency be more proactive, in terms of deployment strategies.
“If we know that’s happening more so in one area at certain times, then we can start to get those types of patterns. We’ll be able to tackle that, and put officers in that area to help deter that,” said Miller.
However, Miller cautions residents that with the new system, will come new, and likely larger numbers.
“Next year when we do our annual report, it will look like there’s a big increase in crime. They’re kind of like apples and oranges. We’re not going to be able to do a year by year comparison when we can’t go back to 2022 and 2023 to compare NIBRS and UCR,” said Miller. “It will be more transparent. You’re going to actually be able to see more of what our officers are dealing with, rather than just those previous crimes. So, you’ll get a better feel, but hopefully in 2024 we’ll be able to start to give our citizens a good year to year comparison that they’re used to seeing.”
Preparing for a Safe Summer
Looking ahead towards the busy summer season, Miller says OCPD is aiming to boost community engagement. She adds that the force is fully-staffed in its full-time officers, and recruitment efforts will wrap up in the coming days.
“We’re hoping to get out there, not just in an enforcement standard, but in education and having community events where we get to see and interact with our citizens,” said Miller.
But, visitors and residents need to play their part in keeping Ocean City safe as well, says Miller.
“We’re out, we’re ready to handle anything. Whether it is something small or something big, we just ask that our community does not hesitate,” sad Miller. “Reach out to us, and we will help you.”