Monday, May 16, 2022

Virginia Beach can’t ban College Beach Weekend but will better prepare, deputy city manager says

Police Chief Jim Cervera, left, and Deputy City Manager Steve Cover field questions regarding College Beach Weekend at City Hall Monday.
Police Chief Jim Cervera, left, and Deputy City Manager Steve Cover field questions regarding College Beach Weekend at City Hall Monday. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH – After the fifth annual College Beach Weekend was held at the Oceanfront over the past weekend, City Manager Dave Hansen released a statement on Monday afternoon expressing his disappointment in the behavior of some.

“It was so disheartening to see the amount of destruction on the boardwalk this year, from overturned trash cans to trampled landscaping,” Hansen said.

Hansen said that nearly 40,000 people descended upon the city throughout the weekend, but the actions of a few left destruction in the area.

“The weather was perfect for a weekend,” police chief Jim Cervera said. “There are 1.6 million people living within a 45-minute drive of Virginia Beach.”

“Tourism is a cornerstone of the local economy and we welcome everyone to our city,” Hansen said in the statement. “At the same time, we expect people to respect each other, our property and our laws.”

The event is not hosted or sanctioned by the city Hansen said, and the “incidents of violence, heavy traffic, litter and rude behavior have cast a negative view” over the event.

“First and foremost, colleges, beaches and students coming together happen all over the East Coast,” Deputy City Manager Steve Cover said. “I know that it’s an unfortunate event, and it’s a shame, in my opinion, that one or two incidents throughout this entire weekend can shed such a negative light on what Virginia Beach is all about.”

In weeks leading up to the weekend, Cervera said police made an effort to reach out to venues hosting events.

“There are no event organizers. Some of the clubs have special nights,” Cervera said. “Once we find out about them on social media, we contact those particular venues.

Cervera said police then have a discussion with those venues about a security safety plan.

Working with the state police, the city’s police responded to more than 370 calls for service and 200 traffic stops. Many of the calls, Hansen said, involved “large crowds of people running, screaming and seeking to instigate police officers to engage them.”

“Our officers remained disciplined and monitored the crowds,” Hansen said, “managing
the flow of the pedestrians to open spaces, and taking measured action as required.”

By the end of the weekend, Cervera said there were 16 charges against 10 people, 119 misdemeanor charges and about 40 traffic tickets written at the Oceanfront.

“We recovered weapons off of people, we did break up assaults and wide-scale fights,” Cervera said.

While making arrests on Friday night, two officers were assaulted. Hansen said the each of the suspects was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer.

“In these particular cases the individuals decided that they did not want to submit to an arrest when the officers approached them and had to go hands-on, they were assaulted,” Cervera said. “The assaults, fortunately, did not require any hospitalization.”

On Saturday night, two shootings were reported to police. Four people were injured and taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

Cervera said hundreds of people on 18th Street stampeded westbound, northbound and southbound on Atlantic Avenue.

“We worked from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night,” Cervera said. “I can tell you that the vast majority of the young folks who were out were cooperative and respectful to everything police needed to be done.”

Hansen said that public works crews were quickly working to clean up the Oceanfront and should be done by Monday evening.

Over the weekend, an online petition surfaced calling for the city to put a stop to future College Beach Weekend events in the city. On Monday afternoon, the petition had nearly 10,000 signatures.

“It’s not falling on deaf ears,” Cervera said. “We understand how some citizens get frustrated.”

Looking ahead to next year, the city can’t officially ban the weekend from taking place at the Oceanfront, according to Cover, but there are steps it can take to better prepare.

“What we can do is we can take a look at what transpired this year [and] weigh that against what has happened and occurred in years passed,” Cover said.

“We’re an open society, we’re a welcoming city, tourism is a large part of what Virginia Beach is about and we want people to come here and visit.”

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