By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City’s police department was busy last summer cracking down on underage drinking and other unruly behavior by large groups of teenagers loitering in tourist-friendly areas of town.
Ultimately, a “zero tolerance” enforcement program was implemented by police to put an end to the rowdiness on the beaches and the Promenade that largely occurred over the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of 2016, Police Chief Tom D’Intino is scheduled to appear before City Council at its meeting Tuesday to detail the city’s strategy for preventing teenagers from disrupting the town this summer.
Councilwoman Mary Tighe requested an update on how the police plan to handle teenagers loitering on the Promenade. Last year, Tighe expressed concern that Sea Isle’s family-friendly image was being harmed by an outbreak of unruly behavior.
At their board meeting last week, members of the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization also stressed the importance of protecting the town’s reputation as a tourist haven.
Mike Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant, warned that the city can’t afford to have the “Wild, Wild West” on the beaches and the Promenade, which he referred to as the boardwalk.
“I think between the kids on the boardwalk and drinking on the beach, we’re letting this slip away,” Monichetti said, alluding to unruly teenagers.
Monichetti suggested that “social media is killing us.” City officials have repeatedly questioned whether social media may be contributing to the rowdiness by quickly drawing large groups of teenagers or young adults to the Promenade, especially when there is drinking.
Last summer, police concentrated their anti-crime efforts on the beaches, the Promenade and the central part of town, all popular gathering spots for local residents, tourists and teenagers.
The police department increased its patrols, enlisted the help of the Cape May County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit and set up a substation at 40th Street and the Promenade to hold juvenile offenders until their parents picked them up.
Most of the trouble occurred over the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends in 2016. Police responded by making arrests and issuing a large number of summonses. By August, city officials had declared the crackdown a success, crediting police for taking decisive action.
It is not yet known whether D’Intino will announce any new anti-crime measures for 2017 when he appears before City Council. But Christopher Glancey, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said he has been told that the police department plans to bring back its summer substation for processing juvenile offenders.
“Once people know they can’t get away with this stuff, they won’t do it,” Glancey said of the rowdy teens.
Last summer, city officials improved the lighting along the busiest parts of the Promenade as another crime-fighting tool. The areas included the Promenade’s hub at John F. Kennedy Boulevard and between 35th and 45th streets.
The city’s capital plan includes $500,000 for better lighting along the entire Promenade over the next two years. However, the city took quicker action to brighten up the most popular sections of the Promenade.
At one point last summer, Councilman Frank Edwardi wanted to roll back the city’s longstanding 10 p.m. beach curfew by an hour to keep teenagers from getting into trouble after dark. No change was made, though, so the beach curfew remains 9 p.m.