Ocracoke Island was in an uproar over the weekend when two state troopers made their presence known during a big tourist weekend that ended with the patrolmen’s cars getting vandalized.
Troopers from Troop A, District 4 in Washington (Beaufort County) arrived on the island Wednesday and left Saturday morning, First Sgt. Brandon Craft said today.
Over the weekend, 59 citations were issued, including 32 for not wearing seat belts and five for driving while impaired, Craft said. Eighteen warnings were given, and only warnings were given for bicycle infractions, such as riding at night without a light.
Early Saturday morning, the troopers’ cars were vandalized. One car had a cinder block thrown through the back window and the other had paint splashed all over it, Craft confirmed.
Two weeks after state troopers were on Ocracoke during the Ocracoke Island Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament and passed out 59 tickets and 18 warnings, rumors are still circulating about the events of that weekend.
Uniformly, islanders do not condone the vandalism of the two troopers’ cars early Saturday morning of that weekend and several have suggested that the sooner folks stop talking about the whole thing and try to heal the divide, the better.
Nor do islanders condone driving while impaired from whatever substance, but many were startled about having been stopped and questioned for seemingly minor — though still unlawful — infractions. More than a few islanders were stopped twice for various infractions.
“I don’t have a problem with the state troopers ticketing anyone who deserves a ticket, however, some of the motorists who were stopped felt more victimized than protected,” observed Leslie Monticone, whose comment was echoed by many.
“Overzealous” is the term that has been heard frequently these last two weeks.
Nevertheless, First Sergeant Brandon Craft of Troop A, District 4 in Washington (Beaufort County), in a previous interview, said that often a small infraction, such as a seat belt violation, leads to a drunk-driving arrest.
“We get paid to be nosy,” he said. “As uncomfortable as it is, that’s what we get paid to do. I will do everything I can to arrest drunk drivers.”
Ocracoke Island has historically had visits from the troopers on Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day weekends.
Islanders weren’t sure about whether the state police had visited before on the weekend of the annual surf-fishing tournament the first weekend in May, which is the first big tourist weekend of the season. It includes 70 teams of six fishermen who pay hundreds of dollars each to participate, as well as spending for lodging and food. Proceeds from the tournament are donated to several nonprofits on the island.
“Half of my tables that weekend had gotten pulled over,” observed an island server who declined to be identified.
One of the tournament board members, Patty Plyler, is still upset about what she perceived as the troopers looking for anything to pull people over.
“It ruined the fishing tournament, and I’m just furious about it,” she said recently. “It wasn’t even about the alcohol. All the people that week were feeling harassed and stressed and that’s no way to spend a vacation.”
Mostly, it was just one more thing—along with fighting ferry tolls, compromised ferry service from Hatteras, more trouble with overwash on Highway 12, and fighting the gamefish bill—that Ocracokers have been stressed about since 2011.