Ocean City, NJ closer to beach & boardwalk curfew, backpack ban
🔴 Police estimate 3,000-5,000 people were on the boardwalk during Memorial Day
🔴 Teens drinking on the beach was a major problem
🔴 The city council must vote on a curfew change and ban on backpacks at night
OCEAN CITY — The city council met in an emergency session Thursday to formally vote on beach and boardwalk restrictions proposed by Mayor Jay Gillian following a raucous Memorial Day weekend.
After a weekend that saw large numbers of teens at the beach and police and first responders responding to nearly 1,000 incidents of underage drinking, vandalism, assaults, confiscation of a handgun and shoplifting, Gillian ordered beaches to close to everyone at 8 p.m.
Ocean City Police Chief Jay Prettyman estimated the crowd at between 3,000 and 5,000.
During a media briefing, he said police are limited as to how they handle underage drinking and drug use. Police are not allowed to question juveniles about their use of substances and could face criminal charges if they do.
"If we don't have law and order restored in all of shore towns we are going to have pure chaos," state Sen. Mike Testa, R-Cumberland, said during the briefing. "When I talk to law enforcement they say to me, 'Senator, we just want the handcuffs taken off of us. We just want to enforce the laws that are on the books.'"
Spitting teens contribute to changes
During a media briefing Thursday, Gillian said teens were spitting on cops and two city workers assigned to monitor the public restrooms. They quit on the spot. Gillian has ordered boardwalk bathrooms to close at 10 p.m.
Gillians's other orders — a ban on backpacks on beaches and boardwalks after 8 p.m. for all visitors of any age and moving the teen curfew to 11 p.m. from 1 a.m. — require adoption by the city council. They approved them during a first reading at the emergency meeting. If approved after a second reading scheduled for June 15, the new rules would take effect immediately in time for Father's Day weekend.
An ordinance banning E-bikes from the boardwalk is also in the works, according to the mayor.
City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the ordinances include "common sense" exceptions and that police will not be the "Gestapo" about enforcing the new rules.
Juvenile offenders would be given two warnings before police call parents or guardians.
The public will have a chance to comment on the ordinances at the second meeting. Several business owners and residents spoke at Thursday's meeting for and against the ordinances.
Justice Vollz told councilors he spent the night near his three businesses on the boardwalk opposite the beach where many teens gathered.
"I just planted myself on the 11th Street ramp. I just wanted to observe and watch over my businesses, watch over my staff. It is both shocking and grieving to watch the debauchery and all the lawless and harmful behavior," Vollz said. "We stand in full support of efforts to protect youth, to protect families."
Vollz also brought up a potential negative of the bathroom ordinance. Already when the line starts to form people now relieve themselves on the side of his building. Closing them early would exacerbate the problem because visitors still need to use the restrooms.
Resident E.C. Reeves told the meeting that he is concerned that if the city doesn't do something about the crowds visitors will stop coming, according to OCNJ Daily coverage of the meeting.