Pop-up 94th Street

Tuner car enthusiasts returned to the 94th Street parking lot near the Acme supermarket last week to check out several modified vehicles during the unsanctioned pop-up rally. Even though events like this occurred over the weekend, officials said there was a high degree of compliance.

Fewer cars came, but those that did mostly behaved as police monitored activity

Known for law-breaking riotous behavior, this year’s pop-up rally saw its participants put into a submission hold by the Ocean City Police, other area law enforcement agencies, state legislators, local officials, and business owners. Although the result was much better behavior overall, a few incidents still occurred.

“This year, the combined measures of the Ocean City community and our allied agencies resulted in a significant decrease from last year’s event,” Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said in a prepared statement. “While we experienced isolated incidents, the event overall was much different than years past.”

The pop-up rally is an offshoot of the official H2Oi event that once took place in Worcester County and attracted enthusiasts of water-cooled European vehicles such as Volkswagens and Audis. Over time, the event attracted those with highly tuned imported cars that did not qualify for inclusion in the H2Oi event.

The new attendees of the event were much less restrained than H2Oi owners, who were blamed for unruly situations it had no control over. Ultimately, the event relocated to Atlantic City, though the tuner car operators continued coming to Ocean City.

Now referred to as the pop-up rally, this collection of enthusiasts between the ages of 18-40 connect on social media platforms like Facebook and plan events in the resort, often resulting in drivers tearing up and down the streets and challenging each other to burnouts or donut-spinning competitions in intersections, while being surrounded by crowds of spectators.

To put a damper on the activity and behavior of the attendees, Ocean City officials implemented a special event zone from Sept. 21-26 that covered the entire resort area, and lowered the speed limit to 30 mph in all areas except those where the speed was already lower. Inside the special event zone, police made a concerted effort to enforce the adjusted speed limit while also looking for exhibition driving, illegal car modifications, and faulty equipment.

According to preliminary the statistics for Thursday-Sunday, police fielded 1,807 calls for service, 279 from citizens and 1,528 from officers.

Police conducted 986 traffic stops and issued 828 citations over the four-day period.

In 2020, there were 2,802 calls for service, and in 2019 they fielded 2,933 calls for service, showing a downward trend between 2019 and 2020, and now 2021.

Likewise, police conducted 1,230 traffic stops and issued 1,614 traffic citations in 2019, and 1,218 stops resulting in 1,498 citations in 2020.

Also, this year, police made 134 arrests, which included two for drugs, 12 for weapons, and 11 for DUI. In 2019, there were 121 arrests, slightly fewer than this year’s total. Of these, three were for drugs, six for weapons and four for DUI. In 2020, there were 277 arrests, 10 of which were for drugs, 23 for weapons, and six for DUI.

Police were also on the lookout for exhibition driving, which includes things like burning out, skidding, and accelerating at a very aggressive pace and forcing backfires to impress a crowd.

Fifty-three people were ticketed for exhibition driving over the weekend, compared to the 123 who were ticketed for the offense in 2020. Police did not provide statistics on the offense for 2019 or any previous year.

Altogether, 101 vehicles were towed last week for illegal modifications as compared to 368 in 2020.

Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters said police responded to a few isolated situations where large groups gathered in parking lots, although for the most part, she added, there was a high degree of compliance.

“We experienced isolated issues with crowds on Friday and Saturday,” she said. “In comparison to last year, the crowds were not nearly as large, and our officers and allied agencies were able to address them quickly.”

Waters also said there was far less traffic in Ocean City than in previous years and higher degree of compliance on the road in the special event zone.

Buzzuro said the special event zone legislation and enforcement efforts were vital components that led to a successful weekend.

“I am humbled and proud of the dedication of our Ocean City police officers, dispatchers, public safety personnel, and the hundreds of men and women from allied agencies who worked tirelessly to protect and serve our community this weekend,” he said.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on Oct. 1, 2021.

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