OCEAN CITY – While businesses are advised to conduct business as normal during “College Takeover Beach Week” this weekend, the event and its troubled past is on the minds of many.
In previous incarnations in other resort destinations, thousands of attendees of this organized event have caused major problems, including in the Oceanfront area of Virginia Beach last April when an estimated 40,000 college-aged individuals gathered and there were multiple stabbings, shootings and robberies. Videos of the riot-like situations have led to many concerns in Ocean City.
“In response to a number of calls and questions regarding the upcoming unsanctioned event scheduled to take place June 5-8, we want to assure our citizens that the Ocean City Police Department is fully prepared for the influx of visitors that this event and the weekend may bring to our town,” Police Chief Ross Buzzuro posted on OCPD’s Facebook page last Thursday. “We know there is potential for a group of college-aged visitors, which we historically see throughout the month of June and always prepare for accordingly. Like many of our other events in Ocean City, both formal and informal, we are planning and preparing for this event and any incident that may arise. We have a very comprehensive strategic plan ready that includes increased enforcement and high visibility, as well as assistance from our allied agencies.”
Buzzuro furthered business owners should staff accordingly and employees should be prepared for a busy June weekend. OCPD encourages all businesses to conduct their operations as usual.
“We want all of our residents and visitors to know that their safety, as always, is our top priority and we welcome all of our visitors with the expectation that they will be safe, respectful and abide by our laws and ordinances. We’re optimistic that the majority of people that are planning to come to Ocean City throughout the month of June are here to enjoy the beach and everything our town has to offer. Those that come with other intentions will be met with no tolerance and strict enforcement,” Buzzuro said.
For its part, in the weeks leading up to this weekend’s event, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has been vocal about its intentions as well. In an emailed statement, it reported on Wednesday, “There will be an increased presence of Worcester County Sheriff’s Office deputies patrolling the county. The sheriff has also added increased patrols of deputies in the town of Ocean City. The sheriff wants all those who come to Ocean City and the surrounding areas to enjoy their stay without the fear of crime. The sheriff stated that criminal behavior will not be tolerated and all law enforcement in the area are prepared to take the appropriate action to help ensure the safety of those who wish to live and vacation in our community.”
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones is aware of hotel and motel members who have experienced reservation cancelations due to the buzz over the unsanctioned event, although many operators are reassuring their guests the police department is prepped and ready for the event.
“As far as I know, everybody is going on with normal operations because it is June and we are in the summer season. I think everybody is relieved to know that the Ocean City Police are well aware of the situation, they feel confident in their abilities and the fact that they have partnered with the surrounding agencies has certainly helped ease a lot of apprehension. It will be business as normal but it is definitely on the minds of everyone,” Jones said.
While for many it may be business as usual, others are taking special precaution, such as the Lions Club, Knights of Columbus and St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church, which are raffling off motorcycles and a motor vehicle on the Boardwalk.
The vehicles are typically on display during the summer with booths manned by volunteers selling raffle tickets. However, this weekend the organizations have decided to pull the vehicles off of the Boardwalk.
According to William McElroy of Knights of Columbus, Chairman Bruce Coons has decided to pull the 2014 Harley Davidson off of the Boardwalk this weekend and raffle tickets will not be sold.
“Because of what is going on this weekend, we want to make sure the bike is not hurt or destroyed,” McElroy said. “We decided it would be better off to just pull it for the weekend.”
Donna Santoni of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church confirmed the 2014 Harley Davidson Fatboy will be removed from the Boardwalk and tickets will not be sold.
“For the fear of the unknown and for the safety of our parishioners, we are Thursday through Sunday removing the bike and not putting anybody up there. It is for safety,” she said. “Hopefully, it will turn out to be not as bad as we hear.”
Sean Williams of the Lions Club also confirmed the 2014 Dodge Challenger RT Classic will be removed from the Boardwalk, but the booth is still scheduled to have tickets sold as of mid-week.
“We are playing it by ear. We will see how crazy it gets down there but we decided to play it safe by pulling the car off of the boards,” he said. “From what we have heard from Virginia Beach with this group, we are concerned for the car. Even though it is insured, we want it in one piece, so we decided to take it off.”