Ocean City ‘Extremely Ready’ For Another Pop-Up Weekend; Mayor Reports ‘We’re Going On The Offensive’

OCEAN CITY — With the arrival of the unsanctioned pop-up car rally, resort officials this week braced for its annual arrival and claimed they were as ready as they have ever been.

In the months since another troublesome unsanctioned pop-up car rally last September, plans on how to combat the lawlessness and reckless behavior associated with the event have been discussed at various levels, including the police commission, the motor vehicle task force, among law enforcement agencies and with the Mayor and Council. On Tuesday, the special event zone with lower speed limits, higher fines and other restrictions went into place, not only in Ocean City, but throughout the county. This is the first year the county has adopted the special event zone.

By midweek, a stronger law enforcement presence was clearly felt throughout the resort as some of the early unsanctioned event participants began arriving in the resort area. The Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) will be assisted by hundreds of additional police officers from allied agencies all over the Eastern Shore and around the state during the potentially troublesome weekend.

Resort officials have promised a strong police presence, altered road patterns at different times during the weekend and other initiatives, including a strengthened towing ordinance with increased hefty fines.

The special event zone, along with the expanded law enforcement presence, a stronger towing ordinance with stiff fines and penalties and the growing partnership with the private sector was successful in putting a lid on last September’s pop-up rally until the event reached a crescendo on Saturday night with lawlessness reaching new heights on the streets.

To that end, resort officials, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) and its allied partners, state officials, the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office and the private sector have working publicly and privately over the last year to form strategies to better curtail the event.

Another tool in the motorized event toolbox is the OCPD’s Trespass Enforcement Authorization Program, or TEAP, in which business owners allow law enforcement to come on private property to enforce laws and resolve situations, particularly when businesses are closed. It was revealed this week around 200 private businesses have signed up for the program.

Another issue that has been discussed is the need for private businesses to provide security on their own properties, allowing the OCPD and its allied partners to focus on the problems on the streets. Private businesses have been urged to provide private security during the event.

Mayor Rick Meehan said this week in a release just about everything that can be done to curtail some of the lawlessness and reckless behavior will be done this weekend.

“The safety of our residents and visitors is always our top priority, and we want everyone to be aware of the pop-up car rally that is expected to take place in Ocean City this weekend,” he said. “We urge you to please exercise caution if you’re in Ocean City this weekend.

Essentially, resort officials are urging residents and visitors who do not have to come into town this week to not do so. Some local businesses are closing this weekend or limiting hours of operation because of concerns about the pop-up rally.

Meehan said the planning is complete and it is now time to see if some of the new initiatives will help further reduce the disruption over the weekend.

“The Town of Ocean City is doing everything in our power to deter the dangerous driving, large crowds and disorderly conduct we have unfortunately seen during this pop-up rally in the past,” he said. “This is something we take very seriously, and we will be increasing law enforcement presence throughout town to protect our community and maintain safety.”

Meehan warned residents and visitors traffic will likely be heavy and traffic patterns will be altered in certain known trouble spots. There will also be speed bumps or speed humps on certain side streets, but they will not be deployed on Coastal Highway.

“The special event zone will be in place starting Tuesday throughout Worcester County,” he said. “You can expect traffic, changing patterns and other initiatives. We just want everyone to obey the law.”

When questioned on Monday if most of the same strategies will be deployed this year, Meehan said the main strategy is to go from the defensive to an offensive position.

“Are we doing some of the same things? Yes,” he said. “Some of the things we have been doing have worked, and we’re adding some new things. We’re going on the offensive. We’re trying to bring in other events on this weekend that fill the rooms. That’s something we’re doing.”

For his part, OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro said Monday his department and its allied agencies were more prepared for this year than they ever before.

“We are extremely ready, along with our allied partners,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic. We’ve spent a good amount of time preparing for this weekend and we believe we’re going to handle this.”

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.