MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today we're going theme-free and bringing you one of our free-wheeling Wild Cards shows. And speaking of wild, some folks in a certain beach town are worried things are getting too wild of late. And that's the topic of this weeks, On The Coast…
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
…in which reporter Bryan Russo gets us up to speed on the latest news from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Coastal Delaware. And Bryan joins us now from Ocean City. Hey there, Bryan.
MR. BRYAN RUSSO
Hey, Rebecca. How are you?
I'm all right, all right. So, Bryan, you just heard me read that intro, what is up with all of these wild times in Ocean City?
Well, the answer to that question is actually a little more complicated than you might think. A lot of people were rattled earlier this month by two separate stabbing incidents, one on the boardwalk, and one farther uptown in North Ocean City. In the latter incident, there were three stabbing victims, an 18-year-old woman, a 19-year-old man, and a 20-year-old man.
I talked about Ocean City crime with Steve Green. He's the editor and publisher of the Maryland Coast Dispatch. That's a weekly newspaper covering the resort.
MR. STEVE GREEN
You know, really, what everyone is observing here is that we have a changing clientele this time of year. You know, early June and late May is known for being Junebug season, you know, and some of the arrests are clearly Junebug incidents.
Oh, Junebugs, we talked about them a couple weeks back on the show, right?
Right. Now, we should note that these two stabbings didn't involve Senior Weekers, per se. But police statistics tell us there's a drastic uptick in crime each June in Ocean City, and it's often attributed to the younger demographic that's visiting the resort. Locals, of course, call them Junebugs.
Are the Junebugs really causing more trouble than usual this year?
Police officials tell me no, statistically speaking, of course. And this year certain special events are getting the share of the blame, too, because of incidents that have happened during those weekends. So for every Dew Tour and Ocean City Air Show, which seemed to draw in families and be really good for town/public relations, you also have an event like the O.C. Car and Truck Show that came under fire this year for inviting well-known gangster rapper Fat Joe to town.
But there's no clear link showing that those events are to blame for the increase in crime. So it seems to be a perception verse reality situation so far in Ocean City. And perhaps that is most eloquently highlighted in rumors of gang presence in Ocean City. Here's Steve Green, again.
There is documentation that there was some gang-like activity two weekends ago.
But unrelated to these stabbings.
Yes. Unrelated to these stabbings, yes. But the concern was that some of these guys/groups were coming down here to raise hell in our town. And there's social media documentation where we had screen shots sent to us, where there was some kind of rivalry that was going to take place in Ocean City. So these are things that don't sit well.
That's interesting, but I'm curious, what do the police have to say about all this?
Well, I talked with Ocean City police spokesman Mike Levy. He says concerns about gangs are way overblown.
MR. MIKE LEVY
We do not have homegrown gangs in Ocean City. There is no organized gang-type activity here, and if there was, we would be combatting it with every resource available to us to send the message, and I think we continue to be very vigilant about that.
He also says increases in crime are totally normal, especially when you have a huge spike in population like we do every summer in Ocean City.
We are not any worse this year than we were in previous years.
In fact, if you want to look at some raw data, we're actually a little bit better.
And I'm thinking that that little bit better is the takeaway that tourism officials in Ocean City would really like to emphasize right about now.
Well, yeah, that's an absolute understatement. For people who live on the coast year 'round, though, this time of the year, when they make the money that gets them through the winter months. So no one wants any messages floating around that could dissuade people from coming to the beach.
Well, have we seen any evidence that that is actually happening? You know, that tourists are opting to go elsewhere?
Anecdotally, no. I went down to the boardwalk to ask business owners what they're seeing. I talked to a man name Dan Troiano. He owns a boardwalk boutique called Dimensions. He says the only thing that really keeps the crowds away is bad weather. And he thinks the recent increase in crime is just a blip on the radar screen.
MR. DAN TROIANO
You know, every season starts out a little worse, and I get a little worried, but they all go away. As soon as the rates go up and it's more family time, it disappears and it turns into a nice town.
Well, Bryan, I guess we'll just have to wait and see how the summer unfolds, but in the meantime, thank you so much for keeping us up to date on what's happening out there in Ocean City.
You're welcome, Rebecca. My pleasure.
Bryan Russo is the Costal reporter for WAMU and the host of "Coastal Connection," on 88.3 in Ocean City, Md. And we're curious, if you're a fan of our local beaches, what factors do you consider when you choosing your vacation spot? Let us know all about it. Our email address is email@example.com and you can find us on Twitter. Our handle is @wamumetro.
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