Chris Freind: Crowds of young people at the beach: Gangs of New Jersey? | Notice
Itinerant gangs. Drug use. Vandalism fueled by alcohol. Illegal assembly. The unlucky police taunt.
If it was a movie, they could call it “Gangs Of New Jersey”.
Sure, that would be the wimpy little brother of Scorsese’s classic “Gangs Of New York”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But that doesn’t mean the deteriorating situation in the Garden State – particularly the seaside towns in southern Jersey – is not of concern.
The problem is that young people, in large gatherings often coordinated via social media, openly engage in underage drinking and destructive behavior. Yet due to the new law championed by Gov. Phil Murphy, police have been deprived of the tools they need to keep the peace. The results speak for themselves:
– Long Branch on Long Beach Island has canceled its fireworks display due to an uncontrollable crowd;
– Toms River Police instituted a curfew amid a plethora of complaints from disruptive teens;
– Sea Isle has seen the destruction of memorial benches along its promenade, large crowds of intoxicated youth and widespread public urination. Ironically, part of the reason people relieve themselves both on the beach and on private property is that public washrooms have been closed due to vandalism.
– Ocean City experienced large and unruly crowds, with altercations involving 80 young people;
– In Avalon, Mayor Marty Pagliughi extended emergency COVID-related restrictions, including overnight beach and boardwalk closures, as the only way for police to tackle the hordes of rowdy teens who have disturbed the peace and vandalized at will. Police Captain John Roscoe lamented the state’s new restrictions: “It’s a warning the first time, it’s a warning the second time, it’s a warning the third time. And there is no state system to track these children.
Why the need for municipalities to take such drastic measures? Because Governor Murphy and the Legislature, in an effort to end what they saw as a racial disparity in the state’s juvenile justice system, effectively nullified the ability of the police to arrest and detain youth for offenses such as underage alcohol use and cannabis use.
Children are not stupid. Most know that since the tables are turned, they can act with impunity when they engage in alcohol and drug use. And yes, while they can still be arrested for more serious crimes, it’s easier said than done, as offenders can easily disperse into large crowds, free to rampage on another day.
In an editorial, Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski, who is also the first vice president of the New Jersey State Police Chiefs Association, explained how the law has handcuffed police:
“If a person under the age of 21 refuses to hand over marijuana or alcohol, or does not provide identification upon request, the police can no longer make an arrest, nor carry out any searches afterwards. of what is in sight. This means contraband cannot be confiscated and officers cannot notify parents of teens and children under 18. Why ? The officers will not know the identity of these children.
“If the police smell the smell of marijuana on a teenager, officers are no longer allowed to search that young person or search a vehicle for contraband that is not clearly visible. The officers, under the new law, must let the young people go.
“The police can no longer arrest or detain a minor caught with weed or alcohol except to issue a written warning or to warn their parents. It does not matter whether it is the teenager’s first, second, third or even tenth violation of the law. Equally puzzling is the lack of a centralized, uniform database to record all warnings issued by police officers in New Jersey. “
If that’s not crazy enough, here’s what makes sin deadly. According to Chief Zebrowski: “Yet they (the lawmakers and the governor) have criminalized the good faith actions of the police who can make honest mistakes in trying to investigate and comply with the new law. If a police officer violates any of the regulations listed in nearly 300 pages of the new legislation, that officer may face a third degree charge. “
Let’s make this clear. If a police officer tries to enforce a law that is still in effect, such as citing / arresting a minor drinker, he potentially puts both his job and his freedom at risk. Welcome to the People’s Republic of New Jersey.
As it stands, Jersey dominated the nation when it comes to people fleeing their state before these new regulations were enacted. It’s hard to imagine how courting anarchy will reverse this trend.
Some points to consider:
1) According to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, “Since 2003, the year before New Jersey implemented the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the total number of juveniles in custody per year has fallen by 80%, dropping from about 12,000 to less than 2,500. with young of color accounting for almost 90 percent of the decline.
But given this level of “progress”, why then is the need for these new regulations – especially since they were enacted under the auspices of eliminating racial disparities in the juvenile justice system? It sounds more like a misguided social engineering program than sound policy.
2) Rationalizing Governor Murphy for Heckling: “I think there are a lot of reasons people behave the way they are… Coming out of a pandemic when you’ve been locked up, when you’ve been to the distance school… work remotely… I would play in really hot weather, which is always an ingredient.
Sorry, but enduring a pandemic shouldn’t be a license to wreak havoc wherever you want, and be free from it. If we are to live in a peaceful society, blaming everyone else for their own behavior must be rejected. Personal responsibility must still count.
3) These regulations will be a boon to litigators, as municipal liability will skyrocket. What happens when an officer warns a minor to stop drinking – instead of stopping it, as it used to be – while the youngster ignores it, sucks and dies? Or when that kid who should be at the station gets behind the wheel and kills someone? You can talk about sovereign immunity all day, but in the end massive payments will be made to the families of the victims – all from the taxpayer’s wallet.
4) It is good that elected officials and police chiefs criticize the law and pressure the legislature and state governor to revise it. As GOP Senator Holly Schepisi noted: “If your 12-year-old is caught smoking weed and drinking a six-pack in your local park, the local police have no ability to do anything and he is prohibited from informing the parents of a minor. “This message must be hammered home.
But that’s not enough. Municipal attorneys must earn their wages by finding the best legal position to challenge these regulations, seeking immediate redress, and ultimately taking their case to the Supreme Court, if necessary. Conclusion: The rights to justice, domestic tranquility, general welfare and liberty, not to mention the pursuit of happiness, are violated when the police are prohibited from protecting the public and the state right is eliminated.
5) Throw the blame where it belongs most: lazy, timeless parents. Not so long ago, if you skipped an exam or got in trouble at school, you would pray that your parents wouldn’t know, because then you would be doubly punished. Shame and fear of consequences were very effective in keeping young people online. But now it’s “How dare you accuse Johnny? You are the problem, not him! And so on: From an early age, today’s kids have learned that they can’t hurt at school, on the baseball diamond, in the workplace – and yes, when ‘they behave recklessly on the shore.
For many parents today, getting involved in their children’s lives – from school to sports, activities and travel – is just too much “work”. These are the people who wanted a marriage, but got married, and wanted “children”, but became parents. For them, it is much easier to be their child’s “best friend” by providing alcohol to teenagers and looking the other way at inappropriate behavior, than it is to do the hard work of being parents.
Responsibility begins at home, but this value is growing through one door and the other. And no law can regulate that.
If New Jersey parents and politicians don’t turn around, their fate may soon resemble another great DiCaprio movie: “Titanic.”
Chris Freind is a freelance columnist and commentator whose column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @chrisfreind.