All eyes were on Huntington Beach as the Vans US Open of Surfing took to the waves this year.
After a civil disturbance spilled onto Main Street at the close of last year’s US Open, police officials, city leaders and event producers developed a new strategy to create a more family-friendly, sport-centric event.
Their efforts proved successful.
“Our partnership with event producer IMG and Vans was strong leading up to and throughout the event,” said Lt. Mitch O’Brien. “It was a team effort to market the right information, get our messaging out to the attendees and support the mission of focusing on surfing and skating.”
IMG and Vans delivered a scaled-back event after the community complained free concerts on the sand and giveaways from vendors in prior years drew massive crowds, making enforcement difficult.
The Huntington Beach Police Department also employed several new tools including a mounted enforcement unit, manned surveillance cameras and added patrol in surrounding neighborhoods.
“The horses were great for visibility and moving crowds that would gather in problem areas,” O’Brien said. “The cameras were helpful in watching certain areas and directing officers to early intervention of potential problems.”
O’Brien added a robust public awareness campaign helped get the word out that spectators could expect more police involvement. The program included a community meeting during the event.
“One of our biggest successes this year was the messaging prior to the event,” O’Brien said. “It seems like people were receptive to our presence, security searching bags, increased staffing, including horses, and extra neighborhood patrols.”
The department saw a 40 percent increase in municipal code and criminal citations, police said.
Police made 152 arrests and handed out 1,836 citations over the course of the nine-day competition. Most of the citations were handed out for violations including alcohol or glass on the beach, police said.
Officers also wrote 2,567 traffic tickets, and 49 cars were impounded.
“We wrote more civil citations based on our zero-tolerance enforcement posture, increased staffing and, frankly, a lot of hard work on the part of the officers who were stakeholders in keeping this event manageable,” O’Brien said.