Ocean City Today

OC looks for solutions from Annapolis to limit car events

New legislation discussed during second meeting of Motor Events Task Force
By Greg Ellison | Jan 18, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Police officials raised concerns over the level of disrespect exhibited by foreign car enthusiasts who attended the H20 International in 2017 despite the unsanctioned event being canceled at the last minute, during the second meeting of the recently formed Motor Events Task Force on Wednesday. Pictured from left, Cpt. Mike Colbert, Chief Ross Buzzuro and Lt. Ray Austin.

(Jan. 19, 2018) As Ocean City works to eliminate mayhem associated with annual car and motorcycle gatherings, the discussion Wednesday at the second meeting of the recently formed Motor Events Task Force focused on reducing the throngs of spectators who line Coastal Highway.

Jim Knapp, National Street Rod Association division director and 37-year member, provided his perspective on curtailing dangerous behavior.

“We do shows across the country and have been doing this for 50 years,” he said. “We have found it has to be a community effort … police can not do this by themselves.”

From Knapp’s perspective, whenever sidewalks are packed with spectators bent on inciting high-horsepower vehicles to engage in reckless behavior, disaster is on the horizon.

“The main problem is not specifically the car, but the nut holding the wheel,” he said.

Knapp said hotels and condominium buildings could focus on monitoring their parking lots for unauthorized vehicles to discourage spectators from congregating.

“I think 95 percent of businesses will buy into it,” he said. “Most people want the events to be here, but they don’t want trouble.”

G. Hale Harrison of the Harrison Group Resort Hotels agreed.

“We have to work together as a community to get our arms around the problem,” he said.

Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said state legislators have progressed with a bill to allow jurisdictions to establish temporary special event zones, where much stiffer penalties for motor vehicle violations could be imposed.

“Right now, the fine schedule is woeful in terms of allowing us to maintain a proper level of public safety,” he said.

Mayor Rick Meehan said special events zones would be similar to highway work zones, where traffic fines can be two or three times more than the standard penalty.

“Our goal would be to make the whole town a special event zone,” he said. “We plan to go up [to Annapolis] and testify in favor of that legislation. It’s a step and I think it’s a big step.”

While Cruisin’ event organizers reviewed plans for a host of associated activities, including concerts at the Performing Arts Center and rev-it-up fun at the U.S. 13 Dragway in Delmar, no similar attractions and distractions seem to have surfaced for the unsanctioned H20 International gathering.

Although last summer’s foreign car event was cancelled at the last minute, Meehan said social media posts helped generate an impromptu crowd of thousands, many of whom seemed intent on being disruptive.

What troubled Buzzuro was H20i fans’ brazen disrespect for law enforcement.

“I think they come here for one reason – to cause havoc in the town of Ocean City,” he said. “There is very little redeeming value with this group and how they conduct themselves. The vast majority of those motorists are just here to violate the law.”

Buzzuro said the lawlessness of this particular crowd has worsened, further heightening the importance of legislation establishing special event zones.

“Passing this bill will … start to change the tempo of what we’ve been experiencing,” he said.

Meehan said the task force would reconvene to continue developing strategies to be bolstered by the lobbying effort in Annapolis.

“We need to focus on giving the police department the tools they need,” he said. “We want the public to see we’re working very hard and together.”

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