Beaches in two Cape Cod towns were overrun with loud, intoxicated crowds during Fourth of July celebrations this week, leading to brawls, beach closures, and arrests for underage drinking, disorderly conduct, and other offenses, officials said.
Police reported large, unruly gatherings of people in their late teens and early 20s who set off illegal fireworks in Falmouth and broke into fights in Dennis. Officials in both communities said the crowds left beaches strewn with litter and alcohol containers.
In Dennis, “massive crowds” gathered at Mayflower Beach, police said on Wednesday.
Lieutenant Peter Benson, a Dennis police spokesman, said unusually large crowds of young people began to gather at the beach for July 4 celebrations in 2021, as pandemic restrictions loosened and people eagerly returned to outdoor recreation areas.
The crowds were even larger last year, and police in Dennis had to shut down Mayflower Beach after nightfall as fights began to break out, Benson said. While he is accustomed to the beaches getting crowded, what he has seen in the last three years is unlike anything in his nearly 35-year career in town.
“This is social media-driven. They’re able to get out on — whatever the app that they’re using is — they are able to get the information out,” Benson said Thursday. “Twenty years ago, people didn’t have the ability. They’d have to make phone calls. So you might have 20 people show up. But now, through a social media app, you can communicate with 1,000 people.”
This year, police and town officials planned for large crowds and set up a command post in the beach parking lot, with officers patrolling on all-terrain vehicles, he said. But police were simply “overwhelmed by the amount of people that showed up.”
“Even though it was not a optimal beach day, we still had people in line to get in the beach at 6:45 [a.m.], and it filled up quickly,” he said. “We were off and running at that point,” he said.
As the beach became overcrowded, fights broke out, “bathhouse facilities began failing,” and a thunderstorm approached from Cape Cod Bay, Police Chief John Brady ordered Mayflower Beach and several surrounding beaches closed “in the interest of public safety” at about 2:40 p.m., police said.
“If we allowed more people to come on, it was just going to be that much more difficult to contain,” Benson said.
Police blocked entry to the beach to make it easier for the crowds to leave, but officers did not clear the sand until about 5 p.m., just as the storm arrived, Benson said.
“Really just as we kind of cleared the beach, it started pouring, and that kind of remedied the situation,” he said.
The crowds left an “extraordinary amount of trash, which included aluminum cans, towels, clothing, shoes, broken glass, broken coolers, beach chairs, and contraband,” which public works employees and volunteers had to pick up, police said.
Police made numerous arrests, mostly for underage drinking, and took alcohol from some beachgoers, they said.
In Falmouth, large groups of teenagers gathered on local beaches on July 4, and the two previous nights, police said on Wednesday.
“Their overall behavior was disrespectful and rude, with teens using profanity and taunting officers,” police said in a statement. “There was widespread evidence of underage drinking as the groups dispersed haphazardly. There was also fireworks being shot off in the air and at each other in the middle of the chaos.”
Someone tossed a can of beer through the front window of a North Falmouth home, shattering the glass and nearly hitting a person inside, police said. In Falmouth Heights, a group of teens trespassed onto a condominium balcony just outside a sleeping child’s bedroom and were asked to leave by an adult resident, police said.
Falmouth police said they made arrests for being a minor in possession of alcohol, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and failing to identify themselves.
Afterward, public works employees had to spend hours cleaning up the “litter, alcohol containers and broken glass” left behind, police said.
“There were groups that were respectful and followed police direction but the majority were uncooperative and presenting a public nuisance,” police said. “These groups were a mixture of local teens as well as a large number of visiting teens.”
Falmouth police encouraged parents to speak to teens “about appropriate behavior, good decision-making, and the dangers of drinking.”
In Dennis, police and town officials will review Tuesday’s events and make a new plan to prepare for next year’s celebrations, Benson said.
“We’ll put out to all our people who were involved in the planning and what happened on Tuesday . . . ‘What can we do better? What can we do differently?’,” he said. “[We’ll] take all suggestions and alter the plan that way.”