Virginia Beach, Va. - Huge crowds of people packed the oceanfront Saturday night, an estimated 30 - 40,000. People who were there described it as complete chaos, and in some cases the chaos turned to violence.
Three people were shot and several others stabbed. There were also three robberies. Those were the most serious crimes, but police also had a large number of calls to 911 for other incidents. For a 12 hour period from Saturday night at 6 p.m. to Sunday at 6 a.m., police spokeswoman Grazia Moyers says there were 325 calls to the 911 center from the oceanfront. Last weekend there were 81.
The huge crowds of people were at the oceanfront for an event promoted as "College Beach Weekend" for area universities.
Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms says the city was not involved in any way. They had no idea it was even taking place until a few weeks ago.
But he doesn’t believe it was students causing the problems.
"I think that perhaps some individuals picked up that there was a party going on down at the oceanfront, probably through social media, and as such some people came that became part of the party that weren’t invited and perhaps they're the ones that caused the issues," said Sessoms.
Police are not confirming that, though. They have only said that they are still investigating who is responsible.
Deputy Police Chief Bill Dean did tell NewsChannel 3 that although promoters did not include them in plans for the event, they were prepared. They tried to get estimates of what to expect through social media and by reaching out to area universities.
At one point he says there were 90 officers at the beach, compared to 20 – 25 that would typically be on patrol. They pulled officers from other areas of the city and from other divisions, like the detective division. Dean says they were able to respond to any problems quickly.
"Oftentimes we would get the information about the crime before an actual call to the 911 center," said Dean, "I think we did a good job in the way that we responded to the size of the crowd, I think we did a good job in the way we grew our contingent of police officers as the crowd size increased and I think we did a very good job of being flexible and moving with the crowd up and down the 42 block span that is the oceanfront, 6 blocks deep."
People who were there have mixed views about that.
One person agreed, telling NewsChannel 3 he only saw one fight and saw numerous police officers up and down the boardwalk.
On the other hand, some businesses closed early out of concern for what was happening and one woman wrote on News Channel 3’s Facebook page that it was terrifying. She said what she has seen on the news is mild compared to what she saw working at 20th street.
Some are also comparing it to Greek Fest - an event that took place in 1989 when fraternities and sororities came to the beach.
There were riots and looting for two days at the oceanfront. The mayor says what happened Saturday doesn't even compare.
"Tremendous difference, the police officers went to a scene this past weekend to be helpful and were received that way by the individuals there. They were cooperative. The people scattered when the problem occurred, but when the police came they were appreciative that the police were there. That wasn’t necessarily the case during Greek Fest," said Sessoms.
Police have not made any arrests for the shootings or stabbings, but did arrest four people in connection to an assault and larceny. There were also quite a few arrests over the weekend for various other crimes. Police say from Friday to Saturday, 148 people were arrested at the oceanfront.