January 29, 2023

Officials in Ocean City, New Jersey — a dry community — plan to crack down on gatherings of underage revelers this summer as the city gave police powers to arrest anyone under the age of 18 for “trespassing.”

What does the regulation say?

The recently approved regulation would allow officers to arrest anyone under the age of 17 for a wide range of offenses – such as violating curfew, making excessive noise or simply engaging in “loud, indecent, obscene or offensive” behavior on beaches, boardwalks and recreational areas.

Also, no business should be allowed to “loaf, lounge, hike, stroll, play, stay or be” with teenagers – unaccompanied by a relative or guardian – after lockdown.

However, there are exceptions for young workers.

The legislation also addresses the issue of where bicycles can be ridden, avoiding littering, public consumption of alcohol and the use of firecrackers.

“We’re just trying to give police additional tools to keep the peace during the summer months when it’s so busy in Ocean City,” City Attorney Dorothy McCrosson said during a Jan. 12 meeting about the ordinance.

This legislation provides for curfews from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. until May 15. In summer, from May 16 to September 30, curfews apply from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m

Juveniles would not be arrested and no charges would be filed for these violations, but juveniles could be arrested by Ocean City Police Department officers and held at the station until a parent or guardian could be contacted to pick them up.

Unruly teens have been a problem in coastal towns for some time, and Sea Isle business owners and officials have tried new measures to address the problem in recent years.

“Total” support

During the meeting, community residents praised the move, with one homeowner saying she “fully supports” it.

“I’m glad to see that. I totally support that,” said Marie Hayes of Ocean City. “I’m sure we’re all looking at social media and [see] Tourists say, ‘I’m afraid to put my little kids on the board because these older kids are getting out of control’.”

Other residents addressing the council supported the measure, with some calling for the legislation to be extended island-wide rather than focusing solely on beaches, boardwalks and recreational areas.

Councilor Bobby Barr agreed, expressing his support for the effort and his concern that teenagers have become a problem for the community.

“Anything we can do to stop this nonsense is good. We should have done this a long time ago,” he said.

The City Council unanimously approved the bill.

District and statewide efforts

During the city council’s recent meeting, Leonard C. Desiderio, Mayor of Sea Isle City and director of the Cape May County Board of Commissioners, called the ordinance a “great first step.”

“Your concerns and your challenges are our challenges. And you would be surprised. What’s happening in Ocean City and what’s happening in Ocean City is happening in a different community,” Desiderio said.

Desiderio called it a “juvenile problem” and told city officials it’s affecting so many beach communities that — while he didn’t name a solution — he told the council he’s currently working with state legislators to put together a plan to address it .

“It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s an issue that we all have to work on together and they’re going to need some help and we’re going to work with them,” he said.

Desiderio said he will also schedule quarterly meetings with mayors across Cape May County to consider how to address issues with “fighty” youth.

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