Online petition calls for an end to College Beach Weekend

13News Now reporter Jaclyn Lee has the latest

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- In the wake of Saturday night's violence at the Oceanfront, an online petition is gaining thousands of signatures and calling on the City of Virginia Beach to end its annual College Beach Weekend.

Four people were shot shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday in the 200 block of 18th Street.  It's not clear if the shooting is connected to any College Beach Weekend activity, but the boardwalk had earlier been packed with beach goers and tourists who were celebrating. No arrests have been made at this time.

The annual event draws crowds of college students from across the east coast and is a big boost to the beginning of tourist season, as people spend money on hotels, food and shop at resort strip stores. It is also a great opportunity to recruit job seekers for public safety jobs within the city, officials have said.

But a petition on Change.org that was created within an hour of Saturday night's shooting argues the economic boost isn't worth the risk.

"The cost of property damage and law enforcement costs (for overtime and sheer number of officers that need to work) is too high compared to how much week make off this event," the petition says. "This is also supposed to be a family oriented beach, but this event is far from kid friendly."

The petition was started right around the time of the shooting incidents at the oceanfront. As of Sunday at 6 p.m., the petition had more than 5,000 supporters.

Safety had been a concern prior to this weekend. Huge crowds overwhelmed the area during 2013's College Beach Weekend, with shootings, stabbings, robberies and several fights.

Virginia Beach Police have stepped up their presence in recent years, and for the third straight year, college student "ambassadors" have also become extra eyes and ears along the Oceanfront.

Virginia Beach Police reported that during last year's College Beach Weekend, the department responded to more than 700 calls for service, and made 65 arrests.

"Please end Beach week," the Change.org petition concluded. "It is not worth the cost both monitarily [sic] and physically."

The city has not issued a response to the petition's request at this time.

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