OCPD Taking ‘Proactive’ Stance With College Weekend Event

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials are preparing for an unsanctioned event in early June that caused a ruckus in Virginia Beach last year.

In April 2013, an unsanctioned College Beach Weekend event in Virginia Beach resulted in crowds estimated at 40,000 to 50,000 college-age individuals invading the town’s oceanfront area. According to reports, the big crowds roamed the streets, disrupted traffic and businesses, and generally scared local residents and other visitors. Perhaps more importantly, the event included several significant crimes including three shootings, multiple stabbings and other serious crimes all in the span of about four hours.

The event was promoted extensively in social network media outlets and on college campus websites and blogs. An informal poll of the participants revealed most were from Virginia and Maryland schools, although many reportedly came from as far away as California. The same event returned to Virginia Beach last month with a decidedly different outcome. Virginia Beach Police and city officials were prepared and expanded their police presence and braced for the crowd’s arrival.

Perhaps more importantly, Virginia Beach officials attempted to embrace the influx of visitors rather than take a combative stance and urged local businesses to stay open and welcome the influx of offseason business rather than shutting their doors. The results were a much calmer event with few incidents.

OCPD officials this week confirmed the event is coming in the first week of June. OCPD spokesperson Lindsay O’Neal on Thursday said the town and its police department and allied law enforcement agencies are aware of some of the problems associated with the event in neighboring Virginia Beach and are following that community’s lead for a successful second event last month.

“There is an unsanctioned event, College Takeover Beach Week, taking place in town the first weekend in June,” she said. “We’ve addressed the event in our Police Commission meetings, been in contact with our business community and have a very proactive strategic plan for enforcement during that weekend.”

O’Neal said the OCPD is fully aware of the event and some of the problems it could present, but vowed to have the manpower and resources on hand to handle it.

“We will also be assisted by allied agencies during the event,” she said. “We want all of our residents and visitors to know that their safety, as always, is our top priority. Rest assured that the OCPD is well prepared for the influx of visitors that we will see that weekend.”

This week, the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission issued a report on the second College Beach Weekend event in that resort in April, generally commending law enforcement’s handling of the potential powder keg. The report suggests in 2013, the city was largely unprepared for the onslaught of event attendees, largely from historically black colleges and universities, and its police force was largely caught off guard. This year, however, the Commission reported the crowd was about the same size as the prior year, but the police department was better prepared with almost all of its 800 officers on duty. As a result, more arrests were made, largely for minor offenses, but there were far fewer serious crimes.

The Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission in its report said the expanded police presence achieved the desired results while portraying a welcoming stance rather than the appearance of a police state or martial law. One of the main complaints from the report was that many of the businesses closed early or didn’t open at all, leaving the revelers with few options for dining or entertainment.