Attorney general of New Jersey criticizes shore town for inadequate police presence during boardwalk disturbance

New Jersey’s attorney general placed the blame on a Jersey Shore town for the insufficient number of police officers patrolling its boardwalk during the Memorial Day weekend. As a result, the overwhelmed force led to the temporary closure of the walkway.

According to Matthew Platkin, Wildwood lacked sufficient police officers on its boardwalk during Memorial Day weekend. The city received numerous calls for assistance to address the disruptive behavior of rowdy teenagers and young adults.

The disorder prompted the city to take action by closing the boardwalk overnight and requesting assistance from neighboring police departments.

Local officials and police supervisors from various Jersey Shore towns, along with the president of the statewide police union, attribute the increasing audacity of teenagers to a series of juvenile justice reforms implemented in New Jersey. These reforms have led to a perception among teens that law enforcement has limited power when it comes to dealing with offenses involving alcohol or marijuana.

During an event aimed at inspecting boardwalk games of chance to ensure compliance with state regulations and fair winning opportunities for customers, Platkin defended the law and held Wildwood accountable. He pointed out that the town has hired the fewest law enforcement officers this year compared to previous years.

“We didn’t have sufficient law enforcement officers present in Wildwood last weekend, and we are actively working to rectify that,” he remarked.

Wildwood officials did not provide a response regarding the number of officers assigned to the boardwalk last weekend. However, they did state that more officers will be added to the force within a few days.

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According to Wildwood Public Safety Commissioner Steve Mikulski, police departments across the board are currently facing a shortage of personnel. He noted that there is a decline in the number of young individuals enrolling in police or fire academies. However, Mikulski assured that new recruits are expected to join the force in June, which aligns with the usual hiring timeline.

Ocean City experienced a series of disturbances for the second consecutive year over the Memorial Day weekend. Among the incidents was a stabbing involving a 15-year-old boy, who fortunately sustained non-life-threatening injuries and is currently recovering. However, the case remains unsolved.

In a recent message to the residents, Mayor Jay Gillian shared that the Ocean City police took 23 teenagers to the police station due to their involvement in fights, shoplifting, and other offenses. Additionally, the officers also issued over 1,300 warnings for violations related to alcohol, cannabis, curfew, and other infractions.

According to Gillian, the teenagers who took part in these altercations were acquainted with each other and had deliberately come to Ocean City with the intention of causing harm. Gillian emphasized that such behavior will not be accepted, and the local police department is fully ready to handle these incidents.

Critics are pointing fingers at the juvenile justice reforms that aimed to reduce the number of juveniles entering the court system and placed certain limitations on how police officers can engage with them. In January, the law underwent revisions to alleviate some of the consequences officers faced when dealing with juveniles suspected of possessing alcohol or marijuana.

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According to Platkin, there are no legal barriers preventing the police from apprehending teenagers who are engaged in violent activities.

“I understand that during a frustrating incident, people often look for someone to hold responsible. However, it is important to note that there are no state regulations that obstruct law enforcement officers from carrying out their duties,” he emphasized. “The underlying problem does not primarily lie in the legislation itself. Our focus should be on ensuring that we have well-trained individuals in key positions, and that is precisely what we are currently working towards.”

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