This year’s Van's US Open of Surfing event won’t end with the same ugly rioting that marred last year’s festivities, police vowed Friday.
City officials have added surveillance cameras and officers on horseback to monitor the large crowds the major pro surfing event is expected to attract.
“We’re looking for trouble spots, we’re looking for people drinking on the beach, upon the streets, in their cars or in public, so we can get to them and stop it before it becomes a problem,” Huntington Beach Police Chief Ron Handy said.
Last year, 20 people were arrested after the melee on a popular downtown strip lined with bars and restaurants. Crowds of people smashed car windows, threw items from rooftops and toppled portable toilets.
Lisa Dellano, who lives just off the main strip, said the riot was largely the result of over-drinking.
“All the drunks came out of the bars and they had no place to go,” she said. “And so they just hung out on Main Street and filtered out onto our street and were all just hammered… stumbling through the neighborhoods.”
The event runs July 26 through August 3 and is expected to draw 100,000 people during the nine day event.
Twenty-five new cameras have been installed along Main Street and under the pier, with footage being reviewed back at police headquarters. Fines have been doubled for drinking on the streets or on the beach - from $125 to $250.
And event organizers have removed 100 vendor booths, from the event, hoping to put the focus back on surfing.
“This is about surfing and the history and the heritage of surfing in Huntington Beach,” said James Leitza. “And about coming down and seeing Kelly Slater or Carissa Moore. You know, those are the heroes.”