Hampton, NH Police Chief Blames Social Media for Large Crowds
Hampton Police Chief David Hobbs told selectmen Monday night the recent arrests and big crowds are not a reflection of the community but are the result of social media.
There was an increased law enforcement presence on the beach Friday and Saturday nights after the department became aware of a potentially large crowd headed to Hampton. According to the department's Facebook page, a total of 16 arrests were made both nights.
Hobbs told the board that social media is used to coordinate events that gather massive amounts of people to regroup in one place. There were similar large gatherings planned at Massachusetts beaches in Revere on Saturday and Plymouth on Sunday, according to the chief.
"This is not just Hampton Beach's problem. This is the trend that's going on around the country," Hobbs said.
Hobbs said his goal is to protect people, property and to make sure no one gets hurt.
"We increase our level of visibility out there. When people come to Hampton Beach we want them to feel safe. They like seeing us. I think it was successful. It was a lot of effort, a lot of coordination went into it," Hobbs said.
State Police along with departments from several surrounding towns including the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office, Epping, Exeter, Portsmouth, Seabrook and UNH made up the increased presence, according to Hobbs. But he gave the most credit to his own department.
"When there is a problem in this community or something that needs to be addressed it's the men and women of the Hampton police department that step up and deal with the issue. We could not have been as effective as we were in dealing with these issues if not for these officers," Hobbs said.
Co-chair Chuck Rage and chair Rusty Brindle were complimentary of the department's actions over the weekend. Rage said that as the season goes on it's his observation there will be fewer problems as more families come to the beach.
"You guys did a great job. It was great to see State Police down there. It was good to see the governor commit to helping us every way he could," Brindle said.
He recounted meeting with Gov. Chris Sununu in his office seeking additional resources after a crowd of 500 gathered at the beach on May 26.
"State Police were there too. They told us 'whatever we needed' and they showed us that this weekend. And it wasn't just for this weekend. We talked about the whole summer," Hobbs said. "They are short-staffed also but they are doing what they can do to set the tone. The chief has done a great job."
Select Board Member Regina Barnes also praised the police but said the issue for her is that the town has to deal with these types of problems because of a 1933 agreement that makes the town responsible for safety at the beach.
Barnes said the 1933 agreement can be amended but said the governor nor the state parks department will discuss it publicly with the board.
Barnes said the large crowds on Hampton Beach were not "typical spring" and blamed the pandemic and how it was handled by the state.