VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - After a violent weekend, Virginia Beach officials are working with police and businesses to identify warning signs they missed during the planning stages.
Police and city officials admit they didn't expect 30,000 visitors or the violence they would bring. A number of stabbings, shootings and robberies were reported in the Oceanfront area Saturday night. Police made nearly 150 arrests, despite being largely outnumbered.
"It was spring break. We are not a spring break town," said Billy Baldwin, who owns several Oceanfront bars. "And if we want to be a spring break town, then we need to give these police officers triple the budget."
About 80 police officers struggled to control rowdy crowds. Business owners say they were blindsided. But in retrospect, there were early warning signs of a larger event on an otherwise slow April weekend - all the hotels were booked.
"I don't think as a hotel community that we were really geared up for that spring break mentality," said John Uhrin, a Virginia Beach councilman who represents the resort area, and also manages hotels.
Uhrin says hotel head counts play a key role in how police prepare for events. But, what made this weekend challenging was most of the party packages for rooms were booked online.
"Our ability to track who is coming is even more limited now, because a lot of times, we don't have contact with the customer until they actually get here," said Uhrin.
When guests arrived, hotel owners realized many brought dozens of friends - people city leaders did not plan for in their estimates.
"I think that if the city works together and we have a plan, maybe an emergency plan where there's x amount of people in x amount of time filling up an area, then we bring x amount of police officers," said Baldwin.
Uhrin says all ideas will be discussed, but first, city leaders must figure out the other warning signs they may have missed.
"Until we can understand that and digest that, it's going to be hard to come up with real world solutions," he said.
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