OCEAN CITY – Resort authorities are looking to crack down on trespassers by waiving warnings and immediately taking action through arrest for those property owners who choose to participate in a no trespassing program.
Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino explained that the current law in place by the State of Maryland regarding trespassing is when a subject is issued a warning and if that person repeats the offense then he or she is subjected to arrest.
“I am proposing an ordinance that is used in other jurisdictions that allows a private organization in the Town of Ocean City to partner with the police department as an option … to bind into the trespass ordinance so that if they have a property and after hours or certain times do not want someone on their property the police can then go and make an arrest for trespassing on that property without the pre-warning,” DiPino said during Tuesday afternoon’s Mayor and City Council meeting.
The trespassing ordinance states, “The community would be served by enabling law enforcement to immediately act upon trespass when the property owner consents and participate in the program that addresses the legal concerns of enforcing criminal trespass.”
DiPino said that she has spoken with different organizations and has heard positive and negative feedback on the proposed ordinance.
“I think it would be a benefit to the different businesses within our town to have the option to have this trespassing ordinance in place,” she said.
A business would have to apply to participate in the trespassing ordinance. Upon application, a site visit will be conducted by the police to determine if the location is suitable for participation and determine the placement of the “no trespassing” signage.
“Some properties this would be appropriate for and others don’t have a need for,” Councilman Doug Cymek said. “This is a program where businesses opt in and not out. They’re going to have to understand what they have gotten into to protect the business.”
DiPino added that there are businesses that the ordinance would be appropriate for, such as hotels that are open 24 hours a day. Businesses that would be appropriate would be those that there is a time during the day or night that there is not somebody managing that property to call the police department.
Councilman Joe Hall was concerned over how police would be able to differentiate those who are on a property with criminal intentions or those who are just passing through.
“Police officers have discretion on how to handle it,” DiPino said. “We don’t arrest every single person that breaks the law in Ocean City because there is times when you just have to use common sense.”
Cymek said the agreement between the police department and a property owner will be done through affidavit, which would require the participating property owner to appear for trial.
“The landlord needs to know what they’re doing because they’re going to have to show up for court and that may be a lot depending on what areas they’re at,” Council Secretary Lloyd Martin said. “The landlord really needs to figure out whether this is good for them or not.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas also pointed out that the ordinance will be available to homeowners as well, not just businesses. The council voted unanimously to accept the Chief DiPino’s proposal to instate the trespassing ordinance.
In other police business during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, a review was given on overdose data by Crime Analyst Brandon Reim.
There have been 90 overdoses due to drugs and alcohol in Ocean City since 2008. The busiest year for overdoses in town was 2009. Out of the 90 overdoses, 19 resulted in death.
The summer season in Ocean City results in the highest activity of overdoses. The most overdoses occurred in the age group of 20 years old and younger, and the most deaths caused by overdose occurred in the age group of 30-39 years old.
Drugs are the most prevalent method used to result in overdose in Ocean City. When compared to overdoses caused by alcohol, drugs hold 60 percent. Intentional overdoses outnumber accidental with 36 percent. The southernmost portion of town contains the most overdoses as well.
“For the last three years up until present day, they had every intention. They knew what they were doing…whatever method they used,” Reim said. “With accidentals for the most part, we have some young individuals that come to Ocean City and they consume too much alcohol.”