Councilman on College Beach Weekend: ‘What can we do better?’

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — There were nearly 30 arrests between Friday and Saturday of College Beach Weekend at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront — and more than 500 calls for service — according to preliminary data.

10 On Your Side obtained a copy of a memo containing preliminary data from the weekend.

2016 College Beach Weekend Data

The memo also shows 578 calls for service at the Oceanfront through 4 a.m. Sunday. Several of the calls were reportedly for “very large crowds” of people running and screaming, and asking police to engage them.

City leaders are looking at the numbers and say it could have been worse, but they acknowledge that they have to find a way to make it better.

Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera and the Deputy City Manager Steve Cover held a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the weekend event. Chief Cervera told the media this was the largest crowd he’s ever seen at College Beach Weekend. He said there were likely more than 40,000 people at the Oceanfront. Cover added, “Protection for our citizens is our number one priority.”

“What can we do better next time? What are the lessons learned?” Councilman Jim Wood asked. “It’s a concern that any time we have a problem anywhere in the city, but it’s not as much of a concern when I know the police department handled it well.”

Nearly 80 officers were deployed to the Oceanfront during the day, and 250 for nighttime operations, according to the memo.

Violence broke out in a few instances over the weekend, including late Saturday night.

A shooting on 18th Street late Saturday left four people injured — three of which police said were taken to the hospital. Virginia Beach police said Saturday a person showed up at a local hospital with a stab wound. This person claimed a man had stabbed them at the Oceanfront.

Heavy congestion prompts detour on I-264 near Oceanfront

Two Virginia Beach police officers were assaulted Friday night while they were making arrests, according to the memo. Neither officer was taken to the hospital, and suspects in both cases were reportedly charged with assault on a law enforcement officer.

Other incidents discussed in the memo include a report of a large fight during the day Saturday at a Days Inn on Atlantic Avenue. The reported fight was over when police arrived, but the area was a trouble site for several hours, according to the memo.

The preliminary numbers in the memo do not include the afternoon and nighttime hours of Sunday. Here is the preliminary data:

Friday — April 28, 2017 Saturday — April 29, 2017
Traffic Summonses 35 43
Criminal Summonses 36 19
Misdemeanor Arrests 5 17
Felony Arrests 4 N/A
Guns Recovered 2 4
Tows 2 5

A petition was created in the wake of the weekend’s events, calling for the end of College Beach Weekend in Virginia Beach. Several thousand people had signed the petition through Monday morning.

Residents and visitors posted complaints on the Facebook page for the City of Virginia Beach. Several WAVY viewers also contacted 10 On Your Side about the weekend event.

Officials understand some residents are sick of the event, tired of the violence and want something to be done. However, beach weekend isn’t a city-sponsored event, so it’s impossible for leaders to keep anyone from going.

“What you’ve got is a group of people that are coming to the beach and they are meeting a bunch of other people and they are having a good time and unfortunately, some people act up,” Wood said. “I don’t know what the city can do to prohibit a group of people from coming to the Oceanfront.”

Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen released this statement Monday afternoon regarding College Beach Weekend:

Virginia Beach is a tourist destination for a reason – our beautiful beaches, great amenities and hospitable people make this an inviting place to visit, and this past weekend was no exception – we hosted tens of thousands of people for a variety of sporting and festival events as well as the fifth year of college beach weekend. Tourism is a cornerstone of the local economy and we welcome everyone to our city. At the same time, we expect people to respect each other, our property and our laws.

To be clear, while college beach weekend is not, and has never been, a city-hosted or sanctioned event, the vast majority of the more than 40,000 young people who came this weekend were here just to have a good time. Unfortunately, as is so often the case these days, a small number of determined people can ruin an event for the rest. The isolated incidents of violence together with heavy traffic, litter, and rude behavior have cast a negative view over the whole weekend. The Virginia Beach Police together with partner agencies, including the Virginia State Police, did an outstanding job of preventing events from escalating. Based on preliminary reports:

  • From 6:00 pm Friday through 4:00 am Sunday, officers answered 372 calls for service and initiated an additional 206 calls for service (traffic stops, officer initiated, etc.) for a total of 578 calls for service at the oceanfront. That volume is on par with calls for service on a typical holiday weekend
  • However, several of these calls for service involved large crowds of people running, screaming and seeking to instigate police officers to engage them. Our officers remained disciplined and monitored the crowds, managing the flow of the pedestrians to open spaces, and taking measured action as required
  • On Friday night, two Virginia Beach police officers were assaulted while effecting arrests. Fortunately, neither officer required hospitalization. The suspects in both cases were charged with assault on a law enforcement officer
  • Unfortunately, on Saturday night, there were two shooting incidents; in the first, four individuals sustained minor injuries and in the second, an individual discharged shots into the air

It was so disheartening to see the amount of destruction on the boardwalk this year, from overturned trash cans to trampled landscaping. Public Works crews are working diligently to restore the beauty of our boardwalk and beaches by removing the discarded trash, and we expect to have things restored by the end of today (Monday).

Understandably, residents are expressing concerns about what this one unsanctioned event is doing to the reputation and physical appearance of our great city. While we assess the weekend and what actions to take moving forward, it is critically important that we not allow one weekend to take away from what Virginia Beach is: a safe, clean and beautiful place where families live and visit.”

Stay tuned for updates to this story. Look for complete coverage of College Beach Weekend on air and on WAVY.com.