The last weekend in September was quieter in Ocean City this year.
That’s a major change from the past few years, when attendees of the unofficial, unsanctioned, social-media planned H2Oi descended on the Worcester County beach town and left it in a cloud of smoke.
“This year, the combined measures of the Ocean City community and our allied agencies resulted in a significant decrease from last year’s event. While we experienced isolated incidents, the event over all was much different than years past,” Ocean City Police Department Chief Ross Buzzuto said in a statement Sunday.
“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.”
The official H2Oi, a gathering for modified car owners and enthusiasts, left Ocean City in 2017. People kept coming anyway, and things went downhill.
The “havoc,” as Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan called it in a 2019 Facebook post, seems to have peaked in 2019 and 2020, when large crowds blocked traffic and drivers performed burnouts and doughnuts on or near Coastal Highway.
Notably, in 2019, as police tried to disperse a crowd, rocks and bottles were thrown at them and someone jumped onto a police car. In a separate incident, one person was tased.
In 2020, a Maryland State Trooper was knocked unconscious after he and a suspect he was chasing fell to the ground. More than 300 cars were towed and 277 arrests were made, prompting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to make a statement saying “that we will not tolerate such brazen violence and wanton disrespect for our law enforcement officers, communities and law-abiding citizens.”
In response, law enforcement and legislators throughout the region have been implementing plans on how to control the lawlessness, such as convening the Motor Event Task Force in Ocean City and increasing the number and type of violations in special event zone legislation.
This year, Ocean City Police Chief Buzzuro said they were “extremely ready on all fronts.”
The noticeably smaller H2Oi crowd was greeted with increased police presence and enforcement in Ocean City, as well as lower speed limits, increased fines, rumble strips and more than 40 tow trucks ready to confiscate “unsafe” vehicles.
H2Oi groups and hashtags on social media were filled with stories of expensive impoundments. Multiple people reported receiving speeding tickets with more than $600 fines.
A user in one H2Oi Facebook group posted a video of a Mercedes being towed and said, ” ‘Stretched tires’ and ‘unlawfully modified exhaust’… They will pull you over for ANYTHING.”
There were still some incidents, though, such as an “impromptu burnout contest” that police dispersed Friday night.
Police typically report the number of arrests and other statistics mid-week.