GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas – An event-filled, hectic weekend on the Bolivar Peninsula has left many residents disgruntled and with unanswered questions.
On Tuesday, we answered some of those pressing issues by speaking with law enforcement officials.
What happened this year
A historic event: The unofficially planned "Go Topless" Jeep Weekend has been a decadeslong tradition on the Peninsula, according to Galveston County officials.
They weren't prepared for the crowds: “It's always a large weekend and always a large crowd, but we kind of all got caught off guard this year with the mass of people that showed up," said Galveston County Precinct 1 Commissioner Darrell Apffel.
About the event: The event brings thousands to the beach. Many bring their jeeps to enjoy the weather and water. But this year's event ended with more than 600 calls for service and 305 people booked into the Galveston County Jail, with 120 of those arrests coming from Bolivar Peninsula alone, according to the Galveston County Sheriff's Office.
What went wrong
It was mobility: Apffel said the major issue was mobility and an unexpected influx of people in attendance.
Linking it back to Ike: “The problem was the beach access points were clogging up and there was no way for the jeeps to go two directions," Apffel said. "When Hurricane Ike came, everything on Bolivar Peninsula died down and has since come back strong, including, unfortunately, Jeep Week.”
The crowds are now younger: He also said he was briefed that the crowd, which he said was typically older, is now much younger and more rambunctious.
All added up to a perfect storm: Apffel said that, with thousands of people spending money locally, it's a boost to the local economy, but the high tide, an increase in attendance and the younger crowd made for the perfect storm of gridlock and mishap.
What’s happening next
Planning for next year: County officials, state officials, the Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies are working together to improve the traffic flow and safety conditions of the event for next year, according to Apffel. "We put a plan in place for next year where we close the middle access points, we open one to the far west near the ferry landing and we create one-way traffic down the beach to the east," Apffel said.
They are going to find more personnel: “I’ve already spoken with the county judge and we are going to pull two units from each of the constable precincts to assist with the sheriff's departments," Apffel said. "The sheriff is going to be speaking more with DPS and, even if we have to hire contract personnel to come in from other agencies, that's what we're going to do."
A promise: “Your Galveston County commissioners are on top of the problem and will make sure it runs smoother," Apffel said.
Staffing by the numbers
This is how the county was staffed for the event:
10: Patrol units
4: Helicopters and fully-staffed ambulances
40: Galveston County Sheriff's Office deputies
10-12: DPS troopers