WAVY.com spoke with Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera days after mayhem took over the Oceanfront, resulting in dozens of arrests and incident reports.
"We had a criminal element, and they do what a criminal element does," Cervera told WAVY.com Tuesday.
He has been on the force for 35 years, been chief for approximately three years, and was out with his top command Saturday night. He was there when shots were fired.
"We heard a gun shot, the crowd starts to run, we moved in, we saw a gun on the ground, and we got in quick to keep people away from the weapon," Cervera said.
Friday night, Cervera knew the crowds were larger than expected.
"This crowd was ten times the size of the crowd we had previous years," he said.
Immediately, the police force was beefed up for Saturday night.
"We made sure we had enough command staff there to make the big decisions; when to remove traffic from Atlantic Avenue, when to flush Pacific Avenue, when to stop the inbound traffic," Cervara said.
Cervera and his command officers were on the scene and the police force was effective in targeting criminals.
"In other words, you have a large crowd. People are disorderly, and rather than deal with the entire crowd, we know how to surgically go in and remove the criminal elements. Our officers did a perfect job with that," Cervera said, stating that the incident reports were not as high as they could have been.
When WAVY.com asked the chief if the area may have been understaffed, he said; "20:20 hindsight, however, we staffed enough officers for Atlantic Avenue on Friday and Saturday," Cervara said. "In hingsight, we could do some things differently. We could have more officers on scene, but remember, at what point do you stop? We had over 120 officers on Saturday night... we are patrolling 120 blocks."
Cervara admitted the department should have done a more thorough job of researching social media to see how big the event was getting.
"It's the world we live in, social media, texting, folks show up we do not expect. It is not easy to follow some social media unless you are tapped into it...we need to do a better job with that."
Police had reached out to local colleges, fraternities, sororities, but the unexpected out of towers changed the dynamic, and ended up going to promoter-sponsored events that police may not have known about.
"My message to promoters and to the businesses, contact us if you have any events like this. But remember, most of these promoters don't. They do what they do on social media, they sell their tickets, and that's their business. They are not thinking of what police have to deal with before, during or after," Cervara said.
Discussions are already underway to look into the future in case the large unexpected 40,000 show up again in the month of April.
"We are already looking over staff, looking at certain key times, we know the crowds will show up," Cervara said. "I've been around for many years on Atlantic Avenue, and can feel a crowd, you can feel the demeanor, the pulse of the night. What we felt that night was a lot of young people who had a good time and young people get a little rowdy. We know that, and then there's a criminal element and we are very good at distinguishing the two really quickly."
A company has been hired to complete the repairs to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks, but how long those repairs will take remains unknown.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.