Police Chief: Cruisin Weekend ‘Much More Manageable’

Police Chief: Cruisin Weekend ‘Much More Manageable’
Coastal Highway is pictured near 59th Street last Friday. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — Despite some significant traffic tie-ups and a considerable number of traffic stops and citations written, last weekend’s Cruisin O.C. event has been deemed “much more manageable” by resort officials.

During Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting, resort officials provided a preliminary overview of last weekend’s spring automotive event. While all the final statistics weren’t yet in, the event was characterized as much more manageable than in years past, suggesting the town might have turned a corner with its motorized special events.

Roughly 3,000 classic cars and an in-kind number of non-registered vehicles piled into the resort for the four-day event last weekend, bringing with them the typical traffic jams, crowds of spectators lining the streets and some burnouts, noise and other activities associated with the motorized special events. By and large, however, the spring Cruisin event was relatively tame compared to prior years, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro told the Mayor and Council on Monday.

“We were very proactive,” he said. “The entire event seemed much more manageable. We seemed to have much more compliance from the motorists and the spectators on the sidewalk.”

Buzzuro said the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) and its allied law enforcement partners conducted around 3,400 traffic stops and issued 1,300-plus citations during the event, but the spring Cruisin event by and large lacked much of the illicit behavior associated with it and other motorized special events in the past.

“It seemed like the whole event was notched down somewhat,” he said. “We didn’t see the debauchery and nonsense we’ve seen in the past.”

After a particularly troublesome motorized special event season two years ago, a task force was created to begin exploring how to make the events more manageable and compatible with residents and other weekend visitors. The most significant outcome of the task force’s efforts was the creation of a special event zone during motorized events with lower speed limits, higher fines and stricter enforcement of certain violations.

The special event zone was approved by the state legislature and was in place last weekend and the days leading up to it. Other initiatives to come out of the task force were stronger trespassing laws allowing property owners to curb some of the large crowds from congregating in certain areas and egging on participants to spin wheels and do burnouts.

Yet another initiative was having the promoter schedule events outside of Ocean City, such as the event last Saturday at the U.S. 13 Dragway and another event at the Casino at Ocean Downs last Friday, to spread out the event and relieve some of the congestion on the island. Buzzuro said all those initiatives combined helped make this year’s spring event run smoother than years past.

“It was a combination of a lot of things that helped,” he said. “The special event zone worked in terms of lowering speeds. We had a strong presence without allied law enforcement partners and the citizens did their part. There was nothing significant in terms of collisions. Hopefully, we’ve turned a corner. Last year, we had severe weather so it wasn’t a good comparison. Compared to 2017, it was much more manageable.”

For his part, Mayor Rick Meehan said the motorized special event task force initiatives worked for the most part and thanked those who participated in it.

“I want to thank everyone who has and will continue to volunteer their time to serve on the task force,” he said. “We’ll have a follow-up meeting and hopefully we’ll continue to move forward with some of these things.”

Meehan agreed the combination of all of the task force initiatives helped make last weekend’s event more palatable for residents and visitors.

“We’ve really gone the extra mile to get our citizens and property owners cooperate with what we’re trying to do out there,” he said. “State Highway had more message boards out there and they had them out early and public works had the speed limit signs changed over in a timely manner. I can’t thank the promoter enough for developing these other events. I think there were 1,100 people out at the drag-way on Saturday night and there was around the same number at the event at Ocean Downs on Friday.”

Meehan also praised the various classic car clubs and hot rod clubs for policing themselves during the event.

“They are completely committed to this,” he said. “They are committed to talking to their participants and getting them to take it down a notch or two.”

Meehan said despite the apparent success, at least with last weekend’s event, there was still much work to be done.

“Nothing will ever be perfect, but I think we’ve turned a corner,” he said. “We might have lost some people because of some of these things, but I think we’ll get even more back. We’ll continue to find ways to make it compatible with our other weekend visitors. There were plenty of people out on the beach and up on the Boardwalk.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.