The citizens of Oxford, Maryland can rest easy at night knowing that the town has instituted a new crime fighting strategy involving electronic reminder signs and posters asking those who may be scofflaws and criminals to "Please be Courteous of Our Neighbors Follow Speed Limits and Road Signs."
The electronic sign and poster have been placed on the intersection of Pier Street and South Morris Street where patrons of a popular local bar and restaurant exit the street from the establishment. They were put there after a citizen complained that people leaving the restaurant were speeding and dangerously ignoring the stop sign.
In the olden days, like as late as last year, the solution would have been to station a policeman at this intersection on weekends when patrons would be leaving the restaurant. By parking around the corner, a cop could catch people who didn't stop, assess their sobriety, and either issue a warning, ticket, or arrest them. A few random weekend nights with that happening and people might get the message.
How old fashioned.
Now, when you leave the restaurant the electronic sign flashes a message, " Stop Sign Ahead." The electronic sign is less than a tenth of a mile from the stop sign. Underneath the big, red, readily recognizable stop sign is the poster. Maybe the poster is a combination eye and sobriety test? If you can read it you aren't drunk? Clever.
What is perfectly clear in the Town of Oxford is that we have now adopted a policing strategy of style over substance. We have a Facebook page, occasional coffee with a cop at the Community Center, and a swanky townhouse for housing non-resident police officers when they may have to work hours beyond a 9-5 day.
One wonders why the easiest and more effective solution (a cop on the corner at strategic times) was NOT chosen. Clearly, the resident who complained was worried about her safety and the safety of others at this busy intersection. As recent as the last town meeting, we had a Commissioner Delean-Botkin expressing her own great concern over the general safety of citizens on all of our streets, even saying that a friend of hers visiting the town opined that "she nearly hit a child." Will the solution above be applied to all areas of town where a pedestrian may be struck or a car running a stop sign might cause an accident??
That would be foolish. Do we really think that people who are inebriated or less than noble will care about paying attention to this sign? Some of them will run the stop sign out of spite. They would be less likely to do that if they thought a police officer might be just around the corner.
But maybe that's the point. Maybe the town administration doesn't WANT people to know they may get caught if they run stop signs or speed in our town, especially if they are visiting a local restaurant. Maybe the safety of the town citizens is secondary to Oxford's reputation as a beautiful, welcoming little town. And nothing puts a blanket on drinking and partying like the thought that one might get stopped for DWI.
I don't blame the businesses. They, like the citizens, ask for solutions that will keep our town safe. We count on our commissioners, our town administration, and our police to come up with effective ideas, not band-aids that cover but don't solve the problem.
We've seen that a speed sign has replaced a police officer at the entrance to the town. People know it. All one needs to do is watch people drive in and out every day violating the speed limit. The true deterrent is gone.
It's not like we don't have enough manpower. We now have at least two full time cops and one part time. All of them live outside of town, but overnight stays at the Oxford Townhouse were supposed to solve that problem and provide better coverage. All that did was get an occasional truck in the driveway and a happy note in Town meeting reports about how "cozy" the townhouse is.
And yet we have signs and impractical solutions. Funny thing, I didn't think minding the speed limit or stopping at stop signs was merely a matter of "courtesy." I thought it was the law. Was I wrong?
One wonders what's next. Signs saying, " Please be courteous to the residents of this town please don't break into cars"? Or, even better, "Please be courteous to the residents of this town please don't commit any crimes?"
Is the town just mirroring a nationwide push to cut police coverage and plead with criminals not to commit crimes? It hasn't worked well anywhere it has been tried.
Doesn't seem like a good crime fighting strategy to me.