Despite Oxford's recent campaign to encourage those who would break the law to be "courteous," and the town's stated goal educate citizens about obeying the law through occasional "Coffee with a Cop" sessions and Facebook posts, the Talbot County Sheriff's Department had to answer a call for an armed assault in the town on Sunday, August 6, at 10 p.m.
From Natalie Jones at the Star Democrat:
This armed assault comes on the heels of the town's recent attempts to stop speeders and drunk drivers with warning signs and pleas for courtesy:
The details are addressed in this previous post in the Easton Gazette:
These signs were posted on West Pier Street up until August 10th, when they were suddenly taken down. The town curiously removed the signs before Oxford's Regatta last weekend, one of the busiest weekends of the summer when boaters from across the East Coast come to the town to race and party. One of the racers' main celebration venues is the restaurant at the end of this street. Why would they remove these pleas and warnings if they thought they needed to keep Oxford residents safe, especially on one of the busiest weekends of the summer.
Perhaps the town wasn't really interested in enforcing the law. Maybe they were just appeasing citizens.
The recent incident of armed assault may confirm this fact.
The alarming fact about the assault is that there was NO Oxford policeman on duty that weekend night of August 6th at 10 p.m. despite the fact that the newly hired Chief of Police bragged at a recent town meeting that the town now employs three full time officers. The Talbot County Sheriff's Department had to handle the call since no one on the town force was on duty in town that Sunday night.
This was a fear that Oxford citizens had voiced earlier this Winter when they spoke in a town meeting about not having a police officer living in town. A town policeman had resided in town in a townhouse provided by the town for as long as residents could remember. That all changed in February with the sudden retirement of the former Chief of Police. One citizen said he was told that if there was no officer in town when a crime was in progress, the Talbot Sheriff's Department or State Police would answer the call. This could lead to delays in an officer on site for 30 minutes to an hour. After all, Oxford is not the main focus of either of those agencies.
For decades, the residents of Oxford could count on someone to respond within five to ten minutes tops. They could also count on a visible police presence in town daily. As one town official said in March when a new Chief was hired, "The level of service will not be the same."
It seems that statement is coming true. Personally, I have only seen a police truck in my neighborhood one time since February. I used to see one almost daily. While it's true that I live in a section of town that is not filled with million-dollar homes and isn't the main focus of tourism, one would think that police coverage would still be frequent. After all, we pay our taxes too.
Anonymous sources have told this writer that speed limits coming into town are not being followed, despite an electronic sign and a speed reduction coming into town limits. Some spotted speeders and erratic driving on the way out of certain venues. Not a policeman in site.
Who's to blame for this lack of police presence? It's hard to place the blame on one person, one entity. Here are some ideas:
This weekend proves that this statement is true. The level of service is not the same. The saddest part is that the town seems intent on proving that signs, electronic warnings, coffee with a cop and a Facebook page make up for all that. They don't.
I certainly hope that none of us have to learn that fact firsthand with property or, worse, our lives.
*If you don't think this article has any importance to you, remember that cities like Baltimore are cutting police and installing "Safe Streets" Counselors to prevent crime. Is that any different? It's a national initiative and even little towns like Oxford are participating, replacing real policing with "feel good."