VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — All eyes will be on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront this weekend when police suspect more college students will be at the strip for spring break. But locals have mixed feelings about the plans being put in place to keep everyone safe.
Last year during College Beach Weekend, officers arrested dozens of people for robberies, shootings, stabbings and fights, and a number of local businesses were damaged. Many worry this year will bring another rash of violence.
To help with crowd and vehicle control, police may restrict traffic going to the Oceanfront on I-264 Friday and Saturday nights. If traffic increases to a gridlock situation, vehicles will be diverted off I-264 East at Lynnhaven Parkway and will have to enter the resort area through Virginia Beach Boulevard, Laskin Road, General Booth Boulevard or Shore Drive.
Police say that traffic plan is used for all large crowd weekends, like the Fourth of July. But shutting down any portion of the interstate is a terrible idea, according to Virginia Beach resident Daniel Smith.
“It’s really going to hinder the way traffic is around here, and the locals, we have a way of doing things, and how we want to get there, and now I’m not too sure with the interstate closing, like that it’s going to be real difficult to get around.”
Jennifer Davis owns a salon just off the I-264 Birdneck Road Exit and sees the value in what the police department is doing.
“I think it might be a pain, but there are several other routes [drivers] can take,” she said. “I think its good they’re trying to contain the chaos, and I think they need to have some kind of plan just to control the chaos. It was really bad last year, scary for the merchants.”
Police say 150 people were arrested during last year’s event and eight people were injured when violence broke out. The possible re-routing of traffic is just one aspect of the security plan to prevent a repeat of the chaos, according to Virginia Beach Councilman and local innkeeper John Uhrin.
“[The traffic plan is] really associated with the number of people we have in the resort at any given time,” Uhrin said. “There’s only so many people you can fit in a finite space. Once you get to that threshold, then we’ve always had to divert traffic, and if we need to, we’ll certainly be prepared to do that this year.”
Uhrin said the same traffic plan is used for any major holiday weekend. Virginia Beach Police spokesman James Cason said the reason behind the plan is all about public safety.
“When traffic reaches the point that it comes to a standstill, public safety is paramount,” Cason said. “Emergency vehicles, i.e. Fire trucks, ladder trucks, ambulances, police cars, and other first responders, must be able to reach the scene of an emergency. That cannot be accomplished if traffic is in gridlock.”
For more information about the VBPD’s traffic plan at the Oceanfront for this weekend, click here.