VIRGINIA BEACH — College Beach Weekend 2018 may have been the most tame one yet, with reported criminal activity significantly lower than last year, according to statistics released by the Virginia Beach Police Department.
Efforts to curb violence and educate visitors on the city’s expectations seemed to have some effect — crowds were approximately half the size compared to last year and criminal charges and arrests were down, according to the statistics.
Police officers, along with other city leaders and community volunteers, saturated the Oceanfront Friday and Saturday nights, observing and managing the crowd. Police Chief Jim Cervera and City Manager David Hansen were both spotted there assisting with traffic and talking with visitors and police.
There were 190 people charged with crimes at the Oceanfront during College Beach Weekend 2017, according to statistics released by the city. The most recent updates from this year’s College Beach Weekend show fewer arrests, and traffic was not redirected on Interstate 264 as originally planned Friday night.
As of 3 a.m. Sunday, the city estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 had attended College Beach Weekend Friday and Saturday, fewer than half of the 40,000 visitors the event attracted in 2017. Fewer visitors meant less crime, according to numbers from police.
There were only 58 charges issued by police at the Oceanfront between Friday and Sunday at 3 a.m., while 2017’s College Beach Weekend saw 260 criminal charges.
It is worth noting that the crime numbers for this year are incomplete and represent only physical arrests; tickets are separate data, according to numbers released by police spokeswoman Linda Kuehn, who said data on tickets from this year’s College Beach Weekend will be available later this week.
The event came amidst the perception that College Beach Weekend — and reactions from city leaders, business owners and residents to the predominantly young and black crowd the weekend draws — had stoked racial tensions in Virginia Beach. Those tensions, along with the violence associated with the weekend, threaten to damage the image and reputation of Virginia Beach as a family-friendly tourist destination, according to a report on College Beach Weekend from Virginia Beach Vision.
The city is still compiling information, including crime statistics and Oceanfront businesses and residents feedback. City Council member John Moss believes that council will receive a full briefing “sometime after we are done with the city budget,” which the City Council is currently “consumed with” and will be voting on May 15.
Moss said he expects the full report at the end of May or beginning of June.
Moss said if the city is going to further embrace College Beach Weekend in any capacity, he wants to see Oceanfront businesses and private money really providing that support, not the city.
“I want to see more private investment in CBW, rather than public money going toward paying for entertainment,” Moss said. “The city can wave permit fees or even set aside parts of the beach itself for events, but the city shouldn’t be in the business of entertaining people”
Further, Moss said a lack of public land at the Oceanfront would curtail public efforts to provide entertainment.
“At the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, you’ve got the beach, the streets, the sidewalks and that’s about it,” in terms of publicly available land, Moss said.
Regardless of how the city decides to manage College Beach Weekend going forward, Moss acknowledged it’s going to be difficult to provide solutions that do not upset people.
“I don’t know if you can find a common ground where everyone will be in ecstasy over the solution” to managing CBW, Moss said. “Probably not. But what I really want to hear about is the ‘lessons learned’ about this past weekend from our staff’s perspective. Then we’ll have a better idea of where we can improve moving forward.”
Cervera will present City Council with an initial briefing on College Beach Weekend during Tuesday’s meeting, which will start at 3 p.m. in City Hall.