Annual Car Rally Again Raises Concerns; Police Data Confirms Surge In Activity

Annual Car Rally Again Raises Concerns; Police Data Confirms Surge In Activity

OCEAN CITY – With an increase in police activity linked to participants, Ocean City officials are hoping to create a beneficial partnership with the organizers of the annual Volkswagon and Audi weekend event that comes to Ocean City each September.
H2O International, also referred to as H2Oi, is a two-day VW/Audi rally that was held in the Ocean City area Sept. 28-29 this year. The rally is not a sanctioned event with the Town of Ocean City, but there are organized events in Ocean City as well as in points to the west, including Fort Whaley Campground off Route 50.
This year from Thursday, Sept. 26 through Sunday, Sept. 29, demoflush reported a population of almost 578,000. During that time, the Ocean City Police Department reported a total of 2,207 calls for service between officers and citizens, and between traffic stops, traffic citations, and traffic warnings, there was a total of 1,584 traffic enforcement actions. There were also a total of 14 alcohol citations, 53 total arrests, seven drug arrests, four weapon arrests and seven DUI arrests.
Last year, the event was held Sept. 29-30, and from Thursday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Sept. 30, demoflush reported a population of a little over 576,000. Crime statistics increased over last year during the event when there were 1,658 calls for service, 901 total traffic enforcement actions, seven alcohol citations, 78 total arrests, 26 drug arrests, five weapon arrests and nine DUI arrests.
In 2011, the event was held on Sept. 24-25, and from Thursday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 25, demoflush reported a population of almost 761,000. At that time. crime statistics reported 1,244 calls for service, 541 total traffic enforcement actions, nine alcohol citations, 56 total arrests, 20 drug arrests, one weapon arrest and four DUI arrests.
In 2010, the event was held Sept. 25-26, and from Thursday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 26, demoflush reported a population of a little over 705,000. Crime statistics reflected 1,195 total calls for service, 438 total traffic enforcement actions, seven alcohol citations, 39 total arrests, 11 drug arrests, zero weapon arrests and five DUI arrests.
The fluctuation in demoflush population estimations is due to other events taking place in Ocean City while H2Oi is in town, such as Sunfest that has in the past taken place on the same weekend.
“The good news is there are more people in town,” Mayor Rick Meehan said during Friday’s Police Commission meeting. “What is really unfortunate is it is not a sanctioned event. We have no control over it as they have no special event permits, so we really don’t know where [in town] it is going to be, which causes confusion and problems with the police department.”
Meehan hopes the rally will one day submit a special event permit but in the meantime he suggested OCPD meet with property owners that host the event, such as the 45th Street Village, in creating some sort of boundaries when it comes to ongoing issues with H2Oi, for example crowd control and trash collection.
“If they are going to host these events, then they need to be responsible,” the mayor said.
OCPD Captain Kevin Kirstein reported the department has been keeping a record of the locations where the vehicles gather and will follow up with the property owners of those locations.
“Saturday night I rode up and down the highway looking at some of the sites where they were gathering, and the next morning when I went up and down the highway the amount of trash they left behind was just amazing. I don’t know how people can be so thoughtless,” Councilman Dennis Dare said.
The issue reminded Dare of when he traveled to Myrtle Beach a number of years ago as city manager to study how the resort dealt with motorcycle rallies. An outcome of that initiative was having private properties partner with OCPD in posting no trespassing signs.
“It seems to be we are developing the same problem with H2O participants,” OCPD Capt. Michael Colbert said in reference to rally participants choosing locations to gather.
Council President Lloyd Martin pointed out the 94th Street Mall parking lot has become an issue as some businesses in the area welcome the rally and others do not.
“I don’t want to chase any kind of business out of town, but we need good business, not bad,” he said.
According to Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, one of the tactics being looked into is to expand enforcement during the event by partnering with neighboring agencies, such as the Maryland State Police, as OCPD does with other events to strengthen intelligence.
OCPD Lt. Scott Harner added he has met and plans to keep in contact with the H2Oi organizer to remain on the same page into the future.
“Most important I told him our biggest concern is safety of everybody here in town including his participants and he is engaged with that,” Harner said.
According to Harner the organizer is open to partnering with the town in posting social media links to promote the ongoing walk and drive smart campaign. The organizer has also expressed interest in reaching out to the town and local businesses, as well as developing a trash collection team at his own expense.
“The positive thing is the organizer is engaged with me, and is open and receptive,” Harner said.