Maryland : Safety by City
- Ellicott City
- Germantown & Gaithersburg
- Ocean City
- Silver Spring
Ocean City, Maryland, is a tale of two cities.
It’s a small town and the second-largest city in the state, depending on the time of year and the days of the week.
Its name might give it away, but this is because “OC,” as locals call it, is a resort destination on an island facing the Atlantic Ocean.
This city of fewer than 7,000 people swells to nearly 350,000 on summer weekends and holidays.
It’s connected to Fenwick Island across the state line in Delaware.
While summers can’t be beaten here, there are plenty of things to do in all seasons, and there’s a lower crime rate during the off-season.
Let’s get past a few oddities.
Ocean City is in Worcester County, which is pronounced “Wooster.”
On the west side, OC faces Assawoman Bay, which is pronounced exactly how it looks.
It’s a Native American phrase meaning “midway fishing stream.”
Also, the state is not pronounced “Mary-land” or even “Mer-uh-LAND.”
You’ll hear people say it as a fast form of “Marilyn” or “Merelin.”
Ocean City has been accepting visitors since 1875 and was home to the predecessor of the Coast Guard, known as the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
These brave heroes went into the water during storms to rescue people from shipwrecks.
Nearby Assateague Island, with wild horses roaming, was once connected to Ocean City until the hurricane of 1933 carved an inlet that still exists.
Warnings & Dangers in Ocean City
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Ocean City's crime data shows why you should rely on more than just numbers. You might see websites showing how this is one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Statistically, without any context, that's true. The violent crime rate is 27 times higher than the national average. The theft rate is six times higher. Why would eight million people annually visit such a dangerous place? It's because the crime rates are only created while figuring the population vs. the number of crimes, not factoring in the tourists. When you factor in the tourists, crime rates plummet to a low risk, but with safety precautions, you need in any tourism corridor.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll need to get to OC yourself, but rental cars are easy to find at all airports. Once you're here, you can use a Beach Bus to get around the island. An express shuttle helps you get to certain destinations faster. The Boardwalk Tram is popular for those who want to explore the boardwalk but save their feet from wearing out. You can also use Park & Ride facilities in West Ocean City to avoid looking for a precious parking spot on the boardwalk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Treat this with medium risk. While exact numbers aren't released, any beach community will have thieves looking for crimes of opportunity. Limit what you carry to the bare essentials, and never leave bags on the beach when you go in the water.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Hurricanes are the biggest risk, and the season runs from June through November. The National Hurricane Center is a great resource for tracking the tropics. You don't want to be in Ocean City before, during, or just after a hurricane. Flooding is another big concern. Cold weather in the winter can lead to snow, but it's not a yearly occurrence. Severe thunderstorms can also cause safety risks on warm summer days.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
With just 10 robberies reported in 2021, there's a low risk. It's still smart to avoid dark areas at night and stay in well-lit streets with a buddy.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here as it's a barrier island that's small and somewhat forgotten aside from those looking for a beach vacation. You should still keep your eye out for any suspicious activity.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
A group of lifeguards from Canada found out about the rental scam potential here after paying for their summer home upfront. When they arrived, the building was derelict and uninhabitable, but the supposed owner was nowhere to be found. Never rely on third-party sites for rentals. Use a local rental company to get the best place and price. If a deal seems too good to be true, it is. Watch out for fast-talking scammers on the boardwalk. Just say no to their proposition and walk away.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Fun Fact: When Ocean City was first opened to tourists, it was known as the "The Ladies Resort to the Ocean." While a lot has changed since the mid-1800s, women still have an average risk here. One thing to note from the 2021 crime statistics is that rape/sexual assault was up 60%. Taking the pandemic year out of the equation, six sexual assaults were reported in 2019, but 29 were reported in 2021. Don't let anyone access your beverage while enjoying the beach bars; never go to a private place with someone you just met.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. Check with the city for potential boil orders or water issues before your visit, as those aren't connected to the water quality report and are usually easy to find and follow.
Safest Places to Visit in Ocean City
OCOcean.com is the tourism website for Ocean City, Maryland.
Do not use OceanCityVacation.com, which is for Ocean City, New Jersey.
Check out the blog section for seasonal activities.
Of course, you’ll spend a lot of time on the boardwalk, which spans three miles.
You’ll find restaurants serving fresh crab cakes and saltwater taffy stores with souvenir shops mixed in.
Take your time to soak in the ambiance and use the trolley or pedicabs to get around if you get tired of walking.
Jolly Roger Amusement Park has thrill rides, not-so-thrilling-but-still-just-as-fun rides for the kids, circus performances, and plenty of family fun.
The park is open through Christmas and then closes until spring.
It’s free to enter the park, but you’ll pay per ride or game.
If you want to visit the attached water park on the north end of the boardwalk, you’ll pay separate admission.
There is also a Jolly Roger at the Pier location.
The Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum tells the stories of daring shipwreck rescues dating back to the 1870s.
With a motto of “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back” and a $ 30-a-month paycheck, these men left behind notes and stories of their adventures at sea.
Don’t miss the Davy Jones’ Locker Room with some recovered shipwreck items.
Ghost walks are held seasonally here, where you can learn about the “haunted trifecta” if you dare.
Tours are available in many forms.
You can take a boat tour, skydiving adventure, parasailing ride, or go on a fishing charter.
Seacrets Distilling Company offers tours of the distillery with taste testing along the way (if you’re 21 or older).
Water sport vehicle are available to rent.
It’s wise to use the vendors listed on the official tourism website for transaction safety.
Be prepared to sign safety waivers for all tours.
Look for Free Family Fun events in the summer as there is an event planned almost every day of the summer.
This could be anything from dance lessons to movies on the beach to sunset tours.
A visit to Assateague Island is a true wildlife adventure, even if you have to go the long way to get there.
Ocean City and Assateague aren’t connected, but the entrance is just eight miles from Ocean City.
You’ll pay $25 to enter the park and that pass is good for a week.
In addition to fishing, hiking, camping and other beach activities, you’ll also likely see the wild ponies that inhabit this area.
While you can’t play with them, ride them, or feed them, it’s wonderful to watch them play and frolic.
In West Ocean City, there’s an outlet mall with discounts on top brands and several hotels.
Ocean Downs Casino is just west of there in Berlin with 24-hour Las Vegas style gaming.
Also in Berlin, the Sun Outdoors Frontier Town Western Theme Park comes with live action and a glimpse at life in the Old West.
If you head north to Fenwick Island, you can visit the 1859 lighthouse designed to help prevent the onslaught of shipwrecks happening six miles offshore.
It is open from May through September.
Places to Avoid in Ocean City
There are no parts of Ocean City too dangerous to visit, but you always want to stay on a public street or walking area and stay in well-lit areas.
If you want to visit during the least crowded times of the year, choose January through April.
More than half of all crimes happen in the summer, so the safer months are September through May.
South of 40th Street will be the most crowded, especially during the summer and on holiday weekends.
You’ll want to get there early to get a good spot on the beach.
This busy spot will also have more foot and vehicle traffic and is the oldest part of the city.
Between 40th and 123rd Streets, you’ll find a lot of condos, high-rises, and crowded beaches at the resorts.
There are also some great nightclubs in this area.
North of 123rd, you’ll be in a less riveting part of the city and the more relaxed city with rental homes and families on vacation.
The beaches are less crowded, but there will also be less to see and do.
The Bay Bridge is the main access point to the island. If you are visiting here from an inland city, you should avoid arriving after 10am Sunday through Friday and before 7:00 am on Saturdays to avoid heavy traffic.
Bay Bridge traffic information is available around the clock by calling 1-877-BAYSPAN (1-877-229-7726).
You can also visit Baybridge.com to get more information.
You will need to pay a toll, so ask your rental car company for an E-Z Pass device to cover any toll booths.
The Ocean City Expressway is the other way to get onto the island, but there’s a long stretch of one-lane highway with barriers between north and south routes.
Once you’re in that traffic, you’re stuck there.
Early June brings Senior Week to Ocean City, and that’s not for senior citizens.
This week-long event brings seniors from all over the region to celebrate graduation and blow off some steam before heading into the “real world.”
If you don’t want to deal with thousands of high school seniors, you should avoid that week.
Hotels and rentals will be hard to come by as well.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Ocean City
- The Ocean City Police Department is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube with the handle @OCPDMDINFO. You will find a lot of helpful information, like safety videos, just by scrolling through those sites.
- Ocean City is really geared toward families, and there are a lot of rules and regulations that limit noise, disturbances, and disorderly conduct. The police crackdown on disruptive behavior. Even 69 “Urinating in Public” citations were issued in 2021. This isn’t Daytona Beach or even Ocean City, New Jersey. Keep it PG-rated here.
- There are many ways to fish in Ocean City, including surf fishing, but you’ll need a license from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to do so. Surf fishing is legal but can’t happen within 50 yards of swimmers between 10 am and 5:30 pm (and no, you can’t ask swimmers to move).
- The police department uses license plate readers, so your activity will be monitored while you’re there. Now, this won’t even be a second thought unless you steal a car or commit a crime and escape in your car.
- Ocean City has experienced issues with drivers “Exhibition driving,” which means revving engines, speeding, and drag racing. There is now an ordinance that bans this, so don’t even watch this type of activity happen. If you see it, report it to the police.
- Each parking area in the city has different rules, so navigate it with the Park Mobile App. You can find available spots and pay for parking through your mobile device. You can even add time if you are running out of time in your spot.
- The beach is open from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm. After 10 pm, workers clean and perform maintenance on the beach. Take all your trash with you on the way out and don’t leave a mess behind. Smoking is only permitted in designated areas.
- You can’t sleep in your car or on the beach overnight. Police will look for people violating this law, and you should report it if you see it happening.
- Ocean City isn’t a place where you can drink alcohol in the open. Public consumption is banned, and that includes the beach.
- Have you noticed that I haven’t talked about the great surfing beaches here? That’s because each day there are two surfing locations, but those change each day too. You can listen to local radio stations or call surf shops to ask about the surfing beaches of the day.
So... How Safe Is Ocean City Really?
Ocean City Police issued the 2021 Annual Report, and it gives a great view of crime and safety throughout the year.
Yearly annual reports are listed on the main page of the department’s website and should be posted by March of the next year.
No homicides have been reported in Ocean City since 2018.
According to the annual report, forcible rape and simple assault were the only two crimes that increased in 2021 compared to 2020.
Since 2020 was a pandemic year, let’s dig a little deeper.
According to the five-year average:
- Sexual Assault: Up 51%
- Robbery: Down 58%
- Aggravated Assault: Down 35%
- Theft: Down 25%
In 2021, 56% of all crimes happened in June, July, and August, so visiting during the summer has a higher crime risk.
However, there are a lot more people so your chances of being a victim of crime also goes down.
Ocean City is a great family-friendly destination and the city leaders and law enforcement are doing a great job of keeping it that way.
How Does Ocean City Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a Visa from the U.S. State Department to enter the country. A valid passport is also required. The Visa process can take several months and will require an in-person interview at the U.S. embassy near you.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Since this is such a crowded area, avoid carrying a lot of cash. If you do carry cash, don't keep it all in one place and use hiding spots, like in your socks or hidden jacket pockets. You can get a passport payment ticket at Jolly Roger to avoid feeding cash into the games and rides.
- Weather - Summers will be perfect with warm weather and sunny days. Bring sunscreen and bug spray. Dress casual and comfortable. Fall and spring will likely require a jacket and jeans, especially late fall and early spring. Winters will be cold, so layer up to enjoy the less-crowded beach views.
- Airports - Baltimore/Washington International and Philadelphia International airports are within a 3-hour drive by rental car. Salisbury/Ocean City Regional Airport is served by American Airlines. It is 30 minutes from Ocean City via US Route 50 and Rt. 90.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is peace of mind for expensive trips and provides protection from weather cancelations or delays. Ask the car rental company what coverage you get for storm damage or flooding. If it's not sufficient, you might want to buy extra insurance.
Ocean City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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