During the off-season Ocean City is a quiet beach town with a population of around ten thousand residents, and relatively low police activity. In the summer months though the town transforms into a bustling city of over 300,000. Most of the summer visitors come with family to enjoy Maryland’s famous 10-mile stretch of beach, but there’s also the crowd that comes with a different purpose. The nightlife along coastal highway is enough motivation for many to brave the Route 50 speed traps, or the stop and go traffic coming from Pennsylvania down through Delaware. As is usually the case, packed bars and party hungry tourists attract the attention of police officers. Some officers are simply out there to keep the peace, but others are hungry for some police action. The 100 plus “seasonal” officers that the town of Ocean City employs each summer to supplement the regular force would probably fall into the latter category. Thousands of partygoers plus an increased law enforcement presence makes it hardly a surprise that the OC Police recently conducted a major undercover drug operation.
The undercover drug operation lasted throughout June and yielded 37 arrests. There were 23 controlled drug transactions between cops and unsuspecting dealers, which were used as evidence for distribution charges and other CDS offenses. Police also seized physical evidence including marijuana, cocaine, firearms and cash. Almost all of the defendants are from Maryland, though a few are Pennsylvania residents, and 6 of the 37 were arrested and charged as juveniles. The adult defendants range in age from 18 all the way to 46, but most are 23 or younger. All but three of the adults are facing felony charges that will likely be set for preliminary hearings in the Ocean City District Court sometime in August. Most of these cases will then be indicted or filed in the Worcester County Circuit Court over the next few weeks. Two of the cases are misdemeanor weapons charges and one is a disorderly conduct, which could be handled in the district court right in town.
This is definitely not the first, and will not be the last time Ocean City Police put together an organized undercover drug operation. Each summer there are dozens of drug arrests that involve an undercover cop posing as a party going tourist looking to get high. Most of these controlled deals involve a team of around four officers. One or two are usually dressed in street clothes, while another couple are watching or recording from a police car. The cops posing as potential buyers will typically meet their suspects in crowded areas such as the boardwalk, and then lure them onto the side streets to complete the deal. After the transaction is finished the uniformed officers will then jump out to make the arrest. In some instances police will not make an arrest right away, but will wait until the entire operation is over so as not to jeopardize the identity of the undercovers. But these situations are usually reserved for known dealers, and require a more patient approach that might not be practical to law enforcement in a tourist town. The Blog will follow these cases as they progress through the county courts, and may post a follow up article if necessary.
Benjamin Herbst is a drug distribution lawyer who handles all criminal charges in Maryland, including wearing or carrying a handgun and disorderly conduct. Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation about your case at 410-207-2598.
OCPD arrest 37 in buy-bust drug operation, wmdt.com.