OCEAN CITY — A slew of minors and no majors is the best way to describe last weekend’s H2O International car show presence in Ocean City from a law enforcement standpoint with over 2,500 calls for service reported but no significant incidents.
The annual H2O International (H2Oi) event is one local law enforcement officials and residents gear up for each fall as potentially the most troublesome for good reason. In years past, the event has been associated with heavy traffic, numerous incidents of unruliness and traffic violations and, in some cases, wanton disregard for the town’s ordinances.
The official event is billed essentially as a car show featuring tricked-out Volkswagens and Audis, for example, but as is the case with most of the vehicle-related special events, an in-kind number of hangers-on cause a disproportionate amount of the trouble. The H2Oi event is based at Fort Whaley in WHaleyville off Route 50 and is not sanctioned by the Town of Ocean City, but because of the resort’s close proximity to event headquarters, along with the countless hotel rooms, restaurants, bars and other amenities, most of the action, sanctioned or otherwise, takes place in Ocean City.
Statistically speaking, last weekend’s H2Oi event saw numbers far greater in most cases than in 2015, but it’s important to remember the 2015 event was marred somewhat by the remains of a tropical storm coupled with a stalled Nor’easter that flooded some downtown areas and curtailed some of the traffic. Instead, the 2016 H2Oi’s stats in terms of calls for service, arrests and collisions, for example, were more in line with the 2014 event.
Last weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, there were 2,527 total calls for service, including 2,041 initiated by law enforcement and 486 citizen-initiated calls. In 2015, there were 1,703 total calls for service, including 1,329 officer-initiated calls and 374 citizen calls. In 2014, there were 2,318 calls for service with the police versus citizen calls split along the same basic percentages.
There were 1,222 total traffic stops during the four-day event last weekend, nearly double the number for 2015, which came in a 680. Again, last year was curtailed somewhat by storms, although much of last weekend was not much better in terms of weather. In 2014, there were 1,033 traffic stops conducted in Ocean City during the H2Oi event.
The total number of traffic collisions reported last week (15) nearly doubled over the event in 2015, when just eight were reported. Last weekend’s numbers in terms of collisions was right on the mark with 2014 when 15 were also reported. The total number of arrests was up significantly this year with 46, compared to 38 in 2015. However, there were 57 arrests made during the 2014 H2Oi event.
Otherwise, the other statistical categories offer sample sizes too small to make any real statistical comparisons. For example, there was one drug arrest reported last year, compared to zero in 2015 and three in 2014. There were two weapons arrests reported last weekend, compared to three in 2015 and three in 2014. There were 10 drunk-driving arrests last weekend, compared to nine in 2015 and five in 2014.
Anecdotally, there were big traffic jams in Ocean City at times throughout the weekend and the requisite numbers of enthusiasts on street corners egging on the drivers to peel out, do burnouts and show off what their tricked-out cars can do, and the associated amount of knucklehead behavior, but there were no major incidents reported.
“While we continued to experience unruly behavior from a small number of participants, we are grateful that there were no serious incidents or injuries over the weekend,” said Ocean City Police spokesperson Lindsay Richard.
A strong police presence likely helped curtail some incidents with the OCPD calling in allied law enforcemen
t agencies during H2Oi, just as they do for all motorized special events including Bike Week and this weekend’s Cruisin’ event, for example. Before OC BikeFest three weeks ago, the OCPD reported it had reached an agreement with a handful of allied law enforcement agencies in the region to provide an additional police presence during the event and those that followed including H2Oi. While that presence stopped short of martial law in the resort, it was clearly evident and likely curtailed some of the behavior associated with prior years. In advance of the event last week, the OCPD issued warnings to participants about an increased and vigilant allied law enforcement presence.
“Citizens can expect to see a significant number of our officers out working, many of whom will be focusing on traffic violations and peace and good order issues,” the statement read. “Our highest priority is to keep our residents and visitors safe, in addition to ensuring a positive quality of life by using friendly, fair and firm enforcement.”
With the 2016 event now in the books, it appears the approach is achieving the desired results.
“We would like to thank our allied agencies that assisted us over the weekend and the hotels and restaurants that graciously offered their hospitality to these officers,” said Richard.