Beach Week celebrations plague Dewey Beach residents
In Dewey Beach, Delaware it is the calm before the swarm—the last bit of peace before the annual plague of June bugs. That's what locals call the 3,000 or so loud partying, street crowding, beer pong playing new high school grads who will soon descend on a town where they are no longer entirely welcome.
“They have no idea how crazy and out of control they can get,” said Dewey Beach resident Barb Halls.
“The ones that are a problem can really stress people out,” said the owner of local restaurant Sharkey's, E.J. Shingledecker.
A quick view of Youtube videos show young people celebrating what they call beach week in years past. They tend to arrive fresh off high school commencement, they are underage and they want to party.
“It’s very loud there's a lot of alcohol a lot of drugs,” said Sgt. Cliff Dempsey of the Dewey Beach Police.
Dempsey says it is a formula for disaster.
“One minute they're having a good time and 30 seconds later they have tears rolling down their face because they're either in handcuffs or heading to the hospital,” Dempsey said.
For those reasons, Dempsey has been on a mission this spring. He's been visiting Maryland high schools, including Walter Johnson in Bethesda, to warn parents and students alike about the pitfalls of an un-chaperoned beach week.
“We've come to the conclusion that parents believe this is a right of passage for the kids. What they don't realize is they're sending their kids into the real world,” Dempsey said.
Now a so called June bug who gets in trouble in Dewey beach will pay a stiff price—the minimum fine for an underage drinking citation is $170 if police break up a party at a disorderly house it's a $400 fine for a first offense. It’ll double for a second and then on the third they will be kicked out they'll lose their rental fee and security deposit.
At Walter Johnson there is evidence the message has gotten through—senior Vivek Sen says after the visit by Dempsey, his parents insisted on an adult chaperone being present.
“I don't know if my friends want a parent at the house so I think I’m just not gonna go,” Sen said.
Sarah Bernstein and her friends are going to Delaware but say they've heard the police loud and clear.
“A lot of kids like me and my friends are gonna play mini golf and just like hang out on the beach and be normal,” said Maxine Rich.
The residents of Dewey they say that's all they want.
“I used to come to the beach and have a good time but there's limits to it and they like to push 'em and I don't think they realize the consequences of it,” Halls said.
Now thanks to Sgt. Dempsey, those June bugs have been forewarned.