Police crack down on Norton Point beach parties

Photo by Steve Myrick

Increased police patrols and enforcement of beach regulations are cutting down on rowdiness at Norton Point Beach, according to Edgartown police and The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), which manages the pristine strip of barrier beach for Dukes County.

Police said they began getting complaints, and dealing with crime, last summer.

“Toward the end of the summer, there had been a gathering of early 20-somethings, going down to Norton Point and starting a party,” said Edgartown Det. Sgt. Chris Dolby. “They had a DJ set up with generators. Beachgoers were complaining to The Trustees about the excessive noise from the DJ, and the excessive partying.”

The rolling party happened on Sundays, and involved mostly Island residents, according to police. A month ago, a woman who attended the party told police she blacked out, and woke up hours later in a local hotel room, with no memory of how she got there. On the same day, a man was treated for seizures after leaving the beach party. Police suspect both people ingested methylone, an illegal drug commonly known as “Molly.” The synthetic drug has been associated with mass illnesses, including at an electronic music concert at the TD Garden in Boston earlier this month, where dozens of young people were taken to hospitals suffering from seizures and loss of consciousness.

Det. Sgt. Dolby said the police department has dealt with a number of calls stemming from the beach party, including an 18-year-old man distributing marijuana, a fight, damaged vehicles, and several people taken into protective custody for intoxication.

Beach patrol

In June, Edgartown police met with TTOR, the Dukes County Sheriffs, Massachusetts State Police, and the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and formed a plan for regular patrols aimed at enforcing beach rules, which prohibit alcohol, and any activity that endangers the public or causes a nuisance. Det. Sgt. Dolby said it is a difficult area to police.

“We don’t have the staffing to be on that beach with the amount of area you have to cover and the amount of staff you have to have for eight weeks,” Det. Sgt. Dolby said.

For the past month, Edgartown police officers and deputy sheriffs have regularly patrolled the beach on the weekends, using four-wheel-drive vehicles, to reinforce normal patrols by TTOR staff.

“People pay a lot of money to come here to have a nice family vacation,” Det. Sgt. Dolby said. “You want adults to be able to enjoy themselves, but there’s a line there,” he said. “It’s a family atmosphere that we want to maintain.”

TTOR superintendent Chris Kennedy said he is trying to achieve a balance of enforcement and fun beach days. “I think they’ve handled it well,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve gone overboard. People knew there was an officer available.”

Mr. Kennedy said the past several weeks, including the busy 4th of July weekend, have gone smoothly.

Norton Point, a barrier beach approximately two miles long, separates the Atlantic Ocean and Katama Bay. The beach is popular with over-sand vehicle users who often drive out to spend the day fishing, picnicking, or clamming. A TTOR vehicle permit is required to access the beach.

Facing the music

Mr. Kennedy also spoke with Adam “AP” Iacovello, a well-known Island DJ who performs at clubs and parties. He has organized music for the beach parties. “I’ve spoken to him, and explained that this is a family beach, intended for all community members, not just people at a DJ sponsored party,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr. Iacovello has a different view of the beach parties. “I’ve been doing Norton Beach parties for two years, a free service for the community,” he said. “It wasn’t chaos, it was just a good community beach party.”

Mr. Iacovello said he has not performed on Norton Point Beach this summer. “When I went out there to set up, they told me I couldn’t DJ on the beach,” he said. “I haven’t been able to play on the beach at all, so anything that’s going on is unrelated to me. It’s a public beach, it’s not my duty or my job to police the beach.”

Dukes County has an application process for beach parties. Private parties of more than 225 people are required to pay a $250 fee, a $300 refundable cleanup deposit, provide four portable toilets, and may be required to hire a police detail.

Mr. Iacovello said he is establishing a nonprofit organization to sponsor beach parties, and he hopes to return to Norton Point this summer. Under the county rules, fees are waived for nonprofit organizations.

“This is supposed to be a positive thing,” Mr. Iacovello said. “I’m trying to do this the right way now.”