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Sea Isle to Crack Down on Juvenile Misbehavior

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By Camille Sailer

SEA ISLE CITY – In his customary opening statement to Sea Isle City Council, Mayor Leonard Desiderio Aug. 9 announced additional and new actions his administration will be taking to curb juvenile disturbances.
The mayor emphasized it was imperative to begin grappling with the issue and that just in the last two weeks, Sea Isle City police had dealt with a jaw-dropping 4,000 juvenile “contacts.” 
“Thirty years ago, Sea Isle turned around its image as a party town,” said Desiderio. “We enacted ‘no noise’ zones and doubled fines. Instead of giving just one ticket to the organizer of a party house, we started giving individual tickets that needed to be paid in person in court rather than mailed in. We started requiring community service hours and working with the public on outreach efforts to educate them about our efforts to improve the situation.” 
The mayor then explained that state laws and recent legislative amendments relevant to handling of juvenile misbehavior have “handcuffed” the police in what they can do. 
“These laws are crippling how our dedicated police officers can do their jobs,” Desiderio continued. “Yes, we want to hold police accountable, but enough is enough. Offending juveniles who are clearly in the minority but still wreak incredible destruction are chilling actions by the police by invoking their ‘constitutional rights’ and then are backed up by their parents, who don’t even know where they are. We have literally children of 10 or 12 years old who somehow have made it to Sea Isle by Uber or even bike from Avalon and are still out late at night. Where are the parents?”
The mayor pledged that by next summer, Sea Isle will have “whatever is possible under state law” in place to continue to address issues, such as juveniles destroying public and private property or wandering the beach and Promenade with backpacks full of alcohol. 
“We’re exploring all measures at our disposal, such as increasing fines to the maximum allowable under New Jersey judicial parameters,” the mayor said. “While it is not as simple as hiring more Class II officers since it’s difficult to find qualified individuals, we will consider every solution possible. 
“We are obviously not alone in this effort, as all shore towns are being affected. Despite the February convocation of elected and judicial officials at municipal and state level we held, including trying to get the attorney general to reconsider some of these new measures, state government has not moved at all on getting the enforcement pendulum righted.”
Per Solicitor Paul Baldini, since the state controls what municipalities can enact as punishment, there are certain limits as to what Sea Isle can do. 
However, he said, “I and others are researching all possible avenues and measures that will help the police do their difficult jobs and support the mayor and city administration to make sure that juveniles who are looking for trouble know that Sea Isle is off limits to them.” 
Council President Mary Tighe said that over one recent weekend, she had received four complaints about juvenile disturbances and that her council colleagues are also fielding complaints, concerns, and even worries about safety. 
During public comment, numerous residents echoed the great job Sea Isle police are doing under very trying circumstances, reiterated their concerns for their own properties, and even fears of walking the Promenade at night.   
Have any thoughts and/or information on this story? Email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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