U.S. Open ends calmly; police tally 152 arrests, 1,836 citations issued during event

As police Capt. Russell Reinhart stood at the entrance to the Huntington Beach Pier with Chief Robert Handy on the last day of the 2014 U.S. Open of Surfing, he noted the different feel from last year.

That night, in the moments before downtown erupted into mayhem, the tension was palpable.

This year, the nine-day event was being called a success.

"It's a better crowd and a better attitude," Reinhart said Sunday. "We made a lot of changes from last year that all paid off and make it a better event, no crowd problems at all. It's been busy and there's a lot of people, but everybody's having a good time."

Handy, who had been on foot patrol Sunday, said thousands of people made their way toward Main Street when the surfing competition ended around 2:30 p.m., but order was maintained.

"We had a pretty big push of the crowd going up onto Main Street, but it really wasn't overwhelming," Handy said. "It only lasted for about an hour, when it overflowed from the sidewalks into the street, but everyone was well behaved and respectful. We didn't really have any issues other than just a lot of people in a small area."

Handy said Monday that 152 arrests were made and 1,836 citations issued for traffic and other infractions in the downtown and beach areas during the event. Criminal citations included alcohol-related incidents and glass containers on the beach, Handy said.

In the neighborhoods bordered by Goldenwest Street, Palm Avenue, Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, police issued 482 traffic citations and 36 criminal citations and made eight arrests and eight vehicle impounds, Handy said.

He said he couldn't make comparisons with last year's figures because the department used a different system to track violations.

Sunday's mellow finale was the goal of Huntington Beach safety officials, the city's Specific Events Committee and event promoter IMG Action Sports.

The Police Department relied on several mounted officer units during the weekend along with officers borrowed from neighboring agencies, including those in Fountain Valley and Westminster.

IMG removed the live music and public skate bowl and significantly reduced the number of vendors on the beach.

"For more than six months, really since last year, we've been trying to tweak things," Handy said. "All those little changes have really made a huge difference."

James Leitz, vice president of the company and executive producer of the event, said he is pleased with the outcome.

"I was surprised by how much we could affect people's behavior and send a new message as successfully as we have," he said Sunday. "It's 5:40 p.m. right now and I'm not going to be happy until I walk out of here at about 11 p.m. and see nice mellow streets out there."

Leitz said the decision to have a soft ending — letting people leave at their own pace rather than telling them to leave — contributed to a casualness at the end.

"We just wanted to turn into a regular day at the beach and that was the plan," he said. "It kind of seems like it ended that way."

As Huntington Beach Councilman Jim Katapodis walked around the venue Sunday afternoon, he commended the efforts of Handy and Leitz.

"The chief has come up with a great plan, the police officers seem to be in really strategic positions and everywhere you turn there's a Huntington Beach police officer," he said. "They're giving directions and being nice, but if you're breaking the law, they're writing a citation and sending a clear message that they're not going to have any trouble this year."

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