For many years, as recently as 2020, this weekend in Ocean City was marred by an outlier group of vehicle enthusiasts intent on wreaking havoc on the roads of Ocean City. Over the last three years, the non-event – called a pop-up rally — has trickled to nothing.
We think if another year goes by – and all indications are it will – without a presence of the troublemakers the town should abandon the special enforcement zone next year on this weekend.
Ocean City deserves praise for its approach to the pop-up rally. The regional partnership between government and law enforcement should be emulated by other areas because it clearly worked. The concept for a few years was to discourage visitors to the resort for this one weekend and create rules to make it miserable for the pop-up rally offenders worked. Massive fines, zero tolerance for infractions, quick towing calls and road alterations accomplished what they set out to do – discourage the people from coming to town who wanted to raise hell on our local streets and disrespect our beautiful beach resort.
It’s clear from social media observations the young culprits who were bent on disrespecting Ocean City for many years have moved on to other locales. The scenes that played out in Wildwood, N.J. last year were nearly identical to what took place in Ocean City for several years, especially in 2020 when police were unable to control the chaos of vehicles overtaking roads with burnouts, dozens of people dressed as bananas stopping traffic, fireworks being set off in the median, officers being threatened and assaulted, businesses vandalized and tremendous littering.
Ocean City officials, legislative leaders and their allied agencies should be credited for getting rid of this social media-driven gathering. The newly impacted area should follow Ocean City’s strategy and implement a similar crackdown.
Moving ahead, we think Ocean City should abandon the special enforcement zone next year. It’s not a simple call, but government must be aware of its expenditures and be responsible with resources. There are overtime costs associated, allied agency support complexities and the city needs to be able to balance responsiveness with responsibility.
Ocean City has been actively watching social media for any signs of groups returning this week. There are no indications whatsoever there will be any trouble this weekend. If the trend continues away from Ocean City, we encourage the city to drop the special event zone aspect or at a minimum seek flexibility as far as implementation. There is a way to do this in a responsible fashion moving ahead.