By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
For the second summer in a row, Sea Isle City police handed out hundreds of summonses for drinking on the beach in a crackdown aimed at protecting the resort town’s family-friendly image.
Altogether, 462 summonses for public drinking were issued from May 1 to Aug. 27, Police Chief Tom McQuillen said in an interview Thursday.
McQuillen stressed that drinking would not be tolerated on the beaches when he took over as the city’s new police chief in March 2018.
During the summer of 2018, a total of 509 summonses were issued for public drinking, compared to 94 in 2017. The summonses carry a $110 fine.
Most of the public drinking violations in 2018 and 2019 occurred on the beach. Police targeted the beaches and other popular tourist areas where families and children may have been exposed to drinking.
“We’re always conscious of that. We want to maintain that family-friendly atmosphere,” McQuillen said.
He noted that alcohol consumption is often accompanied by other boorish behavior, including foul language and rowdiness. Under no circumstances does the city want children or families exposed to that type of behavior, McQuillen stressed.
“This is part of our ongoing efforts to maintain an enjoyable atmosphere for all,” he said. “We want everybody to come here, have a good time, be safe and be respectful of everyone else.”
Sea Isle police also were making the rounds on the beach to enforce a new smoking ban. Approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, a statewide smoking ban on New Jersey’s beaches and public parks went into effect this year.
McQuillen said no summonses were issued in Sea Isle for smoking violations. Instead, police handed out informational cards letting the public know of the smoking ban.
“We did not have many complaints at all. I was pleasantly surprised,” McQuillen said of smoking on the beach. “We only had a handful of complaints.”
McQuillen explained that the police department was careful not to be too heavy-handed in clamping down on public drinking or smoking. At the beginning of the summer of 2018, he emphasized that Sea Isle did not want to acquire the reputation of being “a police state” that is unfriendly to tourists.
“It’s always a balance whenever we’re taking enforcement action,” he said Thursday.
This summer, police did not use undercover officers to catch people drinking on the beach. In the past, officers dressed in shorts and T-shirts would discreetly walk the beaches in search of anyone consuming alcohol. If they spotted someone, they would use their cellphones to call uniformed officers waiting nearby.
Sea Isle added two new all-terrain vehicles last summer to help police patrol the beaches. The beach vehicles allow police to cover more territory, much faster, allowing officers to spot people drinking, McQuillen said.
“This is part of our ongoing efforts to maintain an enjoyable atmosphere for all. We put resources toward addressing what historically is a problem,” he said of the drinking crackdown.