Long Beach, at leaset in recent years, has seen its share of disturbances and brawls on or around Memorial Day, and police plan to step up patrols and add manpower throughout the upcoming three-day holiday weekend.
“The department will be bringing in additional officers and supervisors to augment patrol,” said Sgt. Eric Cregeen, the Long Beach Police Department’s public information officer. “The officers will be involved in licensed premise checks, DWI patrol and quality of life enforcement. Additionally, there is a no-time-off policy being imposed for the entire weekend.”
Last year on Memorial Day, several fights erupted on the beach and in other areas in town after an estimated 1,000 youths from outside the Long Beach community arrived on the holiday. Charles Theofan, Long Beach’s former city manager, suspected that the brawls that day were planned by a group of about 50 mischief-makers from different communities — Roosevelt, Uniondale and Hempstead — who used Twitter or their cell phones to meet on the beach, starting after 3:30 p.m., knowing that at 6 p.m. lifeguards would be off duty.
“The vast majority of them were good kids and law-abiding citizens who wanted to have some fun on the beach, but unfortunately there were a small minority of jerks who saw it as an occasion to fight,” Theofan said. “From 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., there was one incident after another. It was very scary.”
That day, Patch witnessed a brawl on the beach at Riverside beach at about 5:45 p.m. Within about a minute, lifeguards were on the scene to break up the fight, followed soon after by Long Beach police.
Many of the troublemakers blocked bike lanes on the boardwalk and those who were arriving clashed with some who wanted to leave the beach, as few MTA buses were available to transport the many beach-goers out of the area.
Theofan said that by the time police arrived at the scenes of the fights, they were already broken up and no one was arrested, but if police — including backups from Nassau County and MTA — hadn’t responded so swiftly, a major riot was possible.
At Tuesday’s budget hearing at City Hall, Commissioner Michael Tangney, while he answered quesitons about police overtime, told the City Council that Memorial Day weekend, along with Irish Day in October, is among the days when overtime is used most.
“On Memorial Day weekend, we’ll incur probably about 80 man hours of overtime between the special events we have, the influx of the beach crowds, the opening of the beach season, the West End bars, this holiday weekend being three days,” Tangney said. “And we are anticipating a large group, as we’ve had the last three years, on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend that we must be prepared for.”
On the Friday before Memorial Day in 2009, some 10 Nassau County police cars and a helicopter were called to Long Beach that afternoon to help local police control and disperse a crowd of more than 1,000 high school-age students on Riverside, Edwards and National beaches, some of whom reportedly got into fistfights with one another.
Due to the large number of youths who were there on a day when lifeguards were not yet on duty, police thought it best to close the beach, police said. According to Paul Gillespie, chief of Long Beach Lifeguards, some of the 1,000-plus kids who were there that day told lifeguards they were from Hempstead, Roosevelt and Uniondale high schools.
“They told us it was senior cut day,” said Gillespie, who added that one teen had drunk too much alcohol and was taken away by friends.
* Jeff Lipton contributed to this story.