By Margie Plunkett
Ocean Ridge had full police coverage in county parks for the July Fourth holiday week, protected by marked and unmarked patrol cars, marine patrols, motorcycle officers and even a helicopter as the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests to step up efforts against crime.
“We had no incidents,” said Ocean Ridge Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi, who added, “We greatly appreciated” the effort.
Both Ocean Ridge and Manalapan had asked for more sheriff’s coverage over the holiday.
In June, Yannuzzi wrote a letter to PBSO decrying the rising crime in Ocean Inlet Park and Hammock Park after budget cuts had reduced Sheriff’s Office presence and “seeking your assistance in reducing the criminal activity that is occurring.”
“We look forward to having an action plan in place quickly,” Yannuzzi’s letter said.
The Sheriff’s Office prepared a lengthy operation plan to beef up its coverage, Yannuzzi said, and plans to review the statistics in August to determine the resulting impact. “They’ll be permanently stepping up patrols in the area,” he added.
Yannuzzi’s letter shows calls for the Sheriff’s Office rising to 371 in Ocean Inlet Park and to 208 in Hammock in 2010; at the same time, calls to the Ocean Ridge Police Department were eight and six, respectively.
The number of sheriff calls dropped in 2011 to 139 in Ocean Inlet and 49 in Hammock after that department cut coverage, and at the same time Ocean Ridge calls rose to 40 and 10, respectively.
Yannuzzi contends in the letter the statistics on reduced sheriff’s calls reflect the absence of routine patrols by that law enforcement office.
This year’s increase in violent crime includes at least two armed robberies, two sexual assaults and several physical altercations — one including a gun, Yannuzzi’s letter said.
The Manalapan Police Department, which has a mutual aid agreement with the Sheriff’s Office to respond to calls on its side of Ocean Inlet Park, also requested added coverage for the July Fourth week. PBSO agreed to increase its presence at the Inlet on the Fourth of July and the following week, Manalapan Police Chief Carmen Mattox told that town’s commissioners in his monthly report.
Ocean Ridge does not have a mutual aid agreement with the Sheriff’s Office. Yannuzzi declined to sign, he explained in his letter, as “ORPD was suffering (and continues to suffer) the same budgetary woes PBSO was facing.
“Our staff was reduced. We went through a reorganization process, and we could not absorb the expense/time associated with the initial report, follow-up investigations and prosecution of county cases,” Yannuzzi wrote.