In Web poll on O.C. booze ban, 36% say it makes the town a 'safer, cleaner resort'

Posted: July 02, 2011

People feel safer in Ocean City. They think the streets are cleaner, the people friendlier and the general way of life a little better than in most of the other shore towns up and down the Jersey coast.

Since the public sale and consumption of alcohol has been illegal for over a century, it's also drier than most other shore towns. Town officials insist the ban is why certain tourists come there and some tourists, even those who weren't aware the town was dry, think it probably helps keep the peace.

"It's probably safer for the kids and for the family because there is no alcohol," said Rama Adell, a 28-year-old Burlington County man smoking a cigarette near the Music Pier on the boardwalk recently. "The image of Ocean City is good."

Opponents of a proposal to allow patrons to bring beer and wine to city restaurants, think even the slightest tweak would "let the genie out of the lamp." Proponents want the city's voters to have their say in November and are busy collecting signatures.

Yesterday, a Philly.com poll showed that people do believe there's a link between booze and crime. About 36 percent of the 769 who voted felt the ban on alcohol made Ocean City a "safer, cleaner resort." Another 29 percent said they vacation there but travel outside of the city to eat.

Joe Barbagallo, of Newtown, Bucks County, was willing to forgo a cold beer with his lunch at Jay's Crab Shack Thursday for the safety trade-off.

"Personally, I love that it's a dry town. We come down here as a family and don't have to worry about people rolling out of bars," he said outside of the Asbury Avenue eatery. "It's just a great place for families."

Ocean City Police Capt. Steven Ang said the department "supports the policies of the city administration," which is very much against any tinkering with the teetotaling policy. Police also said they wouldn't "speculate" over BYOB's effect on crime.

In the FBI Uniformed Crime Report for 2009, the most recent year available, Ocean City had the largest total number of crimes in any resort municipality, with 877, but also had a larger estimated year-round population than most resort towns. Those crime numbers were higher than any of the smaller surrounding communities that have bars and liquor stores, including Margate, Ventnor, Sea Isle City, Wildwood City, and North Wildwood. The number of violent crimes in Ocean City was lower than in Wildwood City, Seaside Heights and Lower Township.

Ocean City police say 74 people were charged with DWI there last year and 622 cited for violating the city's alcohol-possession ordinance. Ang said the majority of those incidents occurred during the summer months.

If the pro-BYOB crowd gets enough signatures on its petition to force a vote in November, the city's current 11,700 full-time residents will decide whether to allow alcohol in the form of six packs of beer and bottles of wine at restaurants and possibly alter the perception of "America's Greatest Family Resort." On the Philly.com poll, though, a healthy 25 percent of the voters said they wouldn't come to Ocean City unless the alcohol prohibition is eased.

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