Ocean City Today

Police ask for business help with special events crowds

By Greg Ellison | Mar 08, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Police Lt. Ray Austin reviewed challenges to curtailing unruly behavior on private property with business members from the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce at the convention center last Thursday.

(March 9, 2018) The Ocean City Police Department wants to work with local businesses and hotel operators to expand its ability to address citizen behavior on private property during car and motorcycle events this season.

Police officials met last Thursday at the convention center with Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce members to pursue measures to curtail disorderly conduct at motorized events.

Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said the goal is to improve communications with hotel and store operators to help quell troublesome activities on their property, in many instances during off hours.

“This is a recipe for disaster in certain circumstances,” he said. “The partnership would be giving us a helping hand.”

Police Lt. Ray Austin, who presented an overview of the challenges, said most people do cease misbehaving when asked to by a police officer, but some do not.

“We do have the 20 percent that just don’t want to listen,” he said.

Although law enforcement has all the authority it needs on public streets and sidewalks, Austin said this troublesome minority often feels emboldened if located elsewhere.

“I’m on private property, you can’t touch me,” he said. “That’s the thought process.”

As a consequence, Austin said the police are suggesting that business owners designate and train someone to lend a watchful eye.

“Just knowing somebody is watching over the property … they’ll leave,” he said.

Common problems that occur on hotel and business parking lots include disorderly conduct, malicious destruction of property and dangerous driving, Austin said.

“We have few tools on the private side unless … you give us the OK to move people off private property,” he said. “Having somebody there can really help us on private property.”

Austin said in most cases, people would act appropriately if designated overseers requested it of them, thereby settling a potential issue without the need to summon the police.

“If you get a lack of compliance, safety is the priority so back off and call the police,” he said. “Be a good witness, but don’t engage. We’re going to deal with that 20 percent (the troublemaking crowd).”

Austin said the next steps would involve asking rowdy subjects to leave the scene.

“[The police] need a designee there to tell an individual ‘you need to leave the property,’” he said. “You request them to leave if they’re causing a problem on your property.”

If those requests are ignored, law enforcement then has the legal authority to intervene, Austin said.

“We can use ‘trespassing on private property’ and then we can make an arrest,” he said.

Police Capt. Mike Colbert said, based on a comparable effort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the department is launching the T.E.A.P. or trespass enforcement authorization program.

“If you’re a member of TEAP, we can act as your agent when the business is closed,” he said.

“If you agree, when closed you don’t want cars in your parking lot.”

Colbert, who said sign-up forms are now available, also suggested businesses post no trespassing signs to eliminate off-hour shenanigans.

“This gives us the authority to make an arrest,” he said. “It’s mostly for businesses that are closed at night.”

Other tips police offered as deterrents, included use of security cameras, which involves posting appropriate signs regarding use, as well as perimeter lighting.

“Lighting has a way of moving people out and away ... especially if they want to act up and misbehave,” Buzzuro said.

Chamber Executive Director Melanie Pursel said guests should be advised of the increased enforcement effort during special events via social media to by creating a handout that outlines the potential penalties for infractions.

Recognizing that “push comes to shove” moment when fun descends into wildness is key, Buzzuro said.

“That’s the fine line, because some of it is part of the experience,” he said. “Carry on, but don’t get carried away.”

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