VIRGINIA BEACH -- Oceanfront businesses are adding more security in case College Beach Weekend turns violent.
Last April, thousands of young people converged on the Oceanfront. In one night, police said they responded to three shootings, a stabbing, several robberies, an assault, and an argument in which two people were injured by a thrown bottle.
The violence concerned many businesses and prompted the Virginia Beach Police Department to conduct safety meetings to discuss concerns.
On Wednesday, George Smith, who owns Juice Box Surf, said he would be closing his business over the weekend.
“My shop personally has had no correspondence or no warning, or what we should do or shouldn’t do this upcoming weekend. As a result, I am going to be closed,” said Smith.
He doesn’t want to risk getting caught in the middle of mayhem. He will close his doors Friday night and re-open Monday.
“Virginia Beach in general has done a stellar job making our beach look beautiful, and weekends like this, unfortunately, can have a bad spin on it for tourists that want to come to the beach,” said Smith.
Kohr Brothers Ice Cream shops have doubled the number of security guards this weekend at four stores along Atlantic Avenue.
Just next door, Old Time Photos has video surveillance ready and the owner plans to close early if the party gets out of control. Workers are also walking to their cars in pairs to make sure they get home safely.
Sal’s Pizza plans to stay open until 4 a.m., serving up fresh slices. The owner said he has security guards on standby for Saturday night.
Britney Branch works at an Oceanfront pizza shop. She now carries a knife and is considering buying a gun to have while she’s at work.
“I just want to be able to protect myself. Things can get crazy here at the Oceanfront,” Branch said.
Some business owners were concerned last year's trouble would keep tourists from the Oceanfront.
The Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association says it’s working with authorities to plan for another influx of young people.
“The hotel association has put out word to our hotels to make sure they're adequately staffed to the front desk, housekeeping and adequately staffed with our security department," said Joe Dabiero.
Dabiero notes that there hasn't been a huge uptick in hotel reservations for that weekend.
Beach police are also limiting access to the area and creating detours to the Oceanfront.
On Tuesday, they announced the following traffic advisories via their Facebook page:
The Virginia Beach Police Department, in coordination with the Virginia Beach Emergency Management has determined that it is likely that between April 25, 2014 and April 27, 2014 that major entry access points into the resort area will either be closed or limited to inbound traffic. This is likely to occur during the evening hours. This option is necessary to reduce the number of cars throughout the area.
For public safety reasons the traffic diversion and street closures will be limited to specific streets and times. It is likely that all traffic east bound on I 264 will be redirected west bound on Friday (4-25-14) and Saturday (4-26-14) nights depending on the level of traffic. During this traffic diversion, vehicles will not be able to exit I 264 (West) until they reach Lynnhaven Parkway. Also, during this diversion, vehicles will be able to enter the area only via north bound General Booth Blvd., east bound Virginia Beach Blvd, east bound Laskin Road or south bound Shore Drive. The traffic diversion/street closures will also affect most of Atlantic Ave vehicle traffic.
The public is encouraged to make necessary arrangements to ensure that employees, guests or other visitors are aware of these traffic changes. Officers will be on station to monitor traffic and in some limited circumstances, reasonable access may be permitted under urgent circumstances.
It is also recommended that those who wish to visit the resort area make scheduling plans to arrive early. Officers will be on station to assist outbound traffic to leave as quickly as possible but visitors should expect delays in leaving the area.
Some say traffic diversion may be just the thing needed to help cut down on violence.
"I think it's a good idea because of last year's problems and ruckus it would help prevent crime..." said Karly Nixon.
Beach police reiterate that the changes will take effect only if traffic comes to a standstill. They say emergency vehicles must have road access in the event of an emergency; a task that cannot be accomplished if there is a traffic gridlock.