The special event zone passed by the Maryland legislature had its first true test last week when thousands of vehicles and young people converged on Ocean City.
The measure was passed by the Maryland General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan in April after being proposed by a special motorized event task force in Ocean City. The concept allows police to reduce the speed limit temporarily on certain roads and significantly increase fines for a variety of violations.
When it was approved, we looked at it as a solid starting point toward taming unruly and unwanted visitors associated with three automobile events specifically – the sanctioned Cruisin events in the spring and fall and the unsanctioned H2Oi in late September.
The spring Cruisin event was a washout, resulting in reduced crowds and little traffic. The special event zone, therefore, was unnecessary and a true indicator of its success or failure could not be determined. After this weekend’s Cruisin event, which will be blessed by Mother Nature, and last week’s unofficial H2Oi gathering, the town should be able to get a good read on whether the special event zone is helping the situation.
We remain convinced the special event zone creation was a worthwhile effort. It was a logical starting point to give police greater authority to crack down with a heavy hand on violators. We have long thought the only recourse here with these troublesome visitors is to make it as uncomfortable as possible for them. Hitting them in the wallet with $500 or more fines will have an impact. It will send the message unsafe and rebellious antics will not be tolerated.
The truth is last weekend was a nightmare in Ocean City. Despite perfect weather for early fall, it was simply not a place most people wanted to be. It was loud, congested, dirty and unsafe. It was also the last place anyone would want to be with a family, based on the language and disrespect constantly on display throughout the weekend by young visitors intent on making their presence known for all the wrong reasons.
It’s clear this population relishes the fact they are not wanted. It’s fuels them to act out, resulting in law enforcement agencies being stressed and having to work together to maintain a semblance of peace and order.
If the special event zone was successful in bringing in revenue to help offset the increased expenses of maintaining a hospitable resort during these events and financially hurts the contemptuous visitors, then it was a success. It’s not the only answer, but time will surely show it’s a necessary part of the solution.