(Sept. 12, 2014) With bikers in town this weekend, and the annual congregation of VW enthusiasts slated to start in less than two weeks, the Ocean City Police Department is soliciting city businesses for what is being called the Trespass Enforcement Authorization Program [TEAP].
Normally, police are only allowed to enforce a civil action, such as trespassing, if they receive a complaint from the property’s owner. But since many resort owners are absentees, this creates an enforcement problem for motor-related events.
Complaints from residents about drivers and riders congregating in unused parking lots – where they drink heavily and harass passers-by – have been on the rise.
But under section 58-81 of the city’s code, property owners are allowed to sign an affidavit allowing the OCPD to act as their agents and investigate the activity of any person located on the property who they suspect to be trespassing – even if no specific complaint has been received.
Encouraging owners to sign a TEAP affidavit is one of the ways the OCPD plan to address enforcement over during this fall’s events.
“There are some properties that have signed up already,” said OCPD Public Information Specialist Lindsay O’Neal.
At this week’s city Tourism Commission meeting, the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association reported that a pre-bike week meeting with the OCPD over the issue had been a success.
“Everybody is on the same page to make sure the event is controlled and has a positive future,” said HMRA President G. Hale Harrison.
The OCPD has also pitched the idea to several business groups, including the HMRA, of introducing an ordinance that would prohibit open containers of alcohol in unenclosed areas – even if those areas were private property – without a permit.
Although many were understandably resistant to the idea, some sort of compromise may be in the works for next year.
“We certainly don’t want these events to grow out of control, because then the events will just go away,” said HMRA Executive Director Susan Jones. “There is a spirit of cooperation to try to help the police have more tools.”
According to OCPD records, the Thursday-through-Sunday span of OC Bike Fest last year saw 1,514 calls for service. This included 40 traffic collisions, 19 DUI arrests, and 15 domestic assaults.
The TEAP program could also be a major factor for the H2O International, an event for late-model VW and Audi enthusiasts slated for the weekend of Sept. 27-28.
The H2OI presents a unique problem in that the event itself is not in Ocean City at all, but at Fort Whaley. However, participants stay almost exclusively in the resort, and with no organized venues in-town, they congregate in any open area they can find, particularly in the week leading up to the car show itself.
However, the H2OI actually had less major issues than bike week last year. During the Thursday-Sunday span before and during the show, the OCPD logged 2,003 total calls or service, but only 38 collisions, 10 DUI arrests, and eight domestic assaults.
But the VW event also had 47 non-DUI alcohol actions, likely for underage drinking given that the H2OI caters to a much younger crowd. The OCPD also conducted 1,245 traffic stops over the H2OI, versus 825 for Bike Fest.