Is Ocean City the most dangerous place to live in Maryland? Even more dangerous than Baltimore?
The surprising answer is yes, at least according to analysis by Movoto, a California-based real estate brokerage firm known for its data-based research of various trends and market conditions across the nation.
The company this week released its list of the safest places to live in Maryland. Movoto said its report looked at places with populations of at least 5,000 and then ranked them based on FBI crime statistics in 2012.
Ocean City landed on the bottom of the list, with residents facing a 1 in 5 chance of being the victim of a crime. The beach town fared worse than Baltimore, while two more Eastern Shore towns - Cambridge and Salisbury - also ranked near the bottom.
Movoto ranks Hampstead as the safest place to live in Maryland, followed by Ocean Pines (huh?) and Thurmont. So, what gives?
The firm's ranking puts Ocean City's population at just over 7,000. But, as some commenters on the Movoto's website point out, the number of people in the town practically explodes in the summer months, multiplying into the hundreds of thousands as beachgoers flood the town. As would be expected, the number of crimes also typically increases during this time.
Ocean City councilman Brent Ashley said that population is key to the figures.
"I don't think they're factoring in the fact that our population grows tremendously in the summer. They're looking at the crime based on the year-round residents, which doesn't present an accurate picture," Ashley said. "We have our crime problems just like anybody else does, but the true numbers are hidden in our increase in population."
A spokesman for Movoto said their analysis only takes into account full-time residents.
"Our stance is that crime that happens in a place is crime that happens in a place, no matter who commits it (this is also a factor in other tourist communities)," said Randy Nelson, one of the editors at Movoto, in an email response. "We're not stating an opinion with these pieces, just analyzing the data (which comes from the FBI) and comparing it to official U.S. Census data from the last full Census in 2010."
Ocean City Chief of Police Ross C. Buzzuro noted that the town's population rises to around 300,000 from May to September. He questioned Movoto's data as it relates to those numbers.
"I don't know if it accurately reflects the considerable rise in our population for a third of the year," Buzzuro said. "I don't think that it gives a true representation of our crime statistics."
According to the Ocean City Police Department's 2013 Year-End Report, the town had a 13 percent overall decrease in offenses in 2013. Crimes against both people and property were down more than 10 percent.
Buzzuro added that so far in 2014, the number of criminal incidents in Ocean City is even lower.
"Crime is down even less than it was last year," he said. "We are a very safe town."