Crime forces Jersey Shore town to close beach, boardwalk early
Disruptive crowds prompt overnight beach, boardwalk closures in Avalon, New Jersey
An uptick in crime, including the vandalism of property as unruly crowds of young people have gathered on the beach, has forced one upscale town in New Jersey to close its boardwalk overnight in order to hand back police powers restricted by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s stance on cannabis use.
Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi on Friday signed an executive order extending restrictions issued under the coronavirus state of emergency keeping closed the beach daily between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., and the boardwalk daily between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
In issuing the extension, the mayor cited “unsafe and disruptive behavior,” witnessed as juveniles have been congregating on the beaches and boardwalk, regularly vandalizing public property and leaving behind excessive litter and debris. Residents are now being forced off the beaches and boardwalk “until further notice” under the new policy in the borough of Avalon, located in Cape May County on Seven Mile Island where the median home lists at $2.6 million, according to Realtor.com.
Pagliughi said the continuance of this order “is to provide our local police department with the necessary authority to disperse large groups of individuals who are congregating in unmanageable numbers on public property which often results in unsafe and disruptive behavior.”
“This unfortunate measure is a direct result of Gov. Murphy’s destruction of effective enforcement of laws pertaining to juveniles, and the elimination of certain police powers,” the mayor continued. “Accountability and education begins at home, and some parents need to take an active approach in managing the activities and whereabouts of their juveniles. If they refuse, more drastic measures will be considered that would impact everyone as a result of actions of a few inconsiderate people.”
The mayor said the state is “directly responsible for unlawful conduct which compromises public safety,” citing juvenile justice reform, the elimination of bail in many cases to threats of charging police officers with third-degree crimes for investigating potential offenses.
“The responsibility for the proliferation of this conduct starts where it was authorized, in the hands of the governor who signs this legislation,” he added.
In issuing a 33-page directive last year instructing cops to only lock up young people as a last resort, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said, “If we can turn a youth away from the juvenile justice system, we know they stand a much better chance of turning their life toward success in the long run.”
Avalon Police Chief Jeffrey Christopher also criticized state leaders for implementing new legislation that requires police to issue only curbside warnings to minors for ordinance and disorderly persons offenses where there is no breach of peace, even when alcohol or cannabis use or possession is involved. He explained that police can do nothing more than issue a warning to a juvenile in possession of drugs or alcohol, and the juvenile is not obligated to provide his or her actual name. Young adults between 18 and 20 can only be issued written warnings for using alcohol or cannabis.
“We remain hopeful that some parents become more involved and help us maintain the quality of life in our community despite the State’s new hands-off policies,” Christopher said.
The joint statement from the mayor and police chief in Avalon says the beach and boardwalk closures were put into effect immediately in lieu of curfew ordinances, which have consistently been declared unconstitutional by New Jersey courts. Avalon Police will continue to use municipal and state laws to charge and prosecute individuals to the greatest extent the laws provide who participate in illegal behavior, the statement added.
Avalon is just one of several communities along the Jersey Shore where local officials have said crowds of mostly teenagers and young people have destroyed property, harassed residents and started fights.
At least 300 teenagers took part in gathering in Long Beach Island over the Fourth of July weekend. Long Branch was forced to cancel its fireworks show after hundreds came together for what officials categorized as an out-of-control party on the beach, NJ.com reported. Police in Toms River issued a curfew las month after resident complaints about unruly teenagers in the North Beach section.
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