Close this search box.

Saturday, April 20, 2024


Weed, Homeless Among Topics Discussed at MTPD ‘Cops & Coffee’ Event

Christopher South

Citizens, chamber members, and those involved in business in Middle Township attended a Cops & Coffee event at the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce office, July 11. Middle Township Police Department periodically holds these events to help communicate information to the public.

By Christopher South

COURT HOUSE – The Middle Township Police Department (MTPD) held one of its monthly ‘Cops & Coffee’ events, this time at the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce office, July 11. 

The purpose of the program is to allow residents and business owners to speak to the police, express concerns, and have questions answered about matters of crime, safety, and quality of life issues. 

One of the first questions to be raised was about the smell of cannabis emanating from vehicles on the roadway. Sgt. Ron Miller, who took the lead on answering questions during the event, said, “If we smell marijuana in a car, we can’t do anything.” 

The presence of the odor of cannabis is apparently not cause to search a vehicle. The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that searching a vehicle based on the odor of cannabis is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable search or seizure by the government.  

A New Jersey Office of Attorney General directive updated May 27, 2022, says if a driver is suspected of being under the influence, the officer should take the traditional investigative steps to determine if there is probable cause for an arrest under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. However, if no probable cause exists, the odor of either burned or raw cannabis does not justify a continued stop. 

Police are further hampered by the fact that there is no test for marijuana that is similar to the Alcotest for alcohol. 

“If they don’t show impairment, there is little we can do,” Miller said. 

The officers said Middle Township is seeing a rise in the number of crimes or offenses simply because the population is growing. However, Miller said the use of alcohol or marijuana is not as big of a concern as heroin or methamphetamine. 

Another question from the public addressed the problems associated with homelessness, such as people being bothered by panhandlers. Miller said there are certain facilities that attract the homeless to Rio Grande. 

“The Branches is one of the reasons they come here,” he said. 

Branches Executive Director Maria Elena Hallion said she has heard that notion before but doesn’t believe the data would bear it out. She said The Branches began asking its clients to show ID, and since March 1, 71% of their clients have been from Cape May County.  

She said it would be remarkable if a stand-alone nonprofit could draw clients from Philadelphia and New York, as some believe. 

Miller said the department was doing its best to keep the township clean and safe. 

When asked about the current traffic situation, Cpl. Phil Johnson chuckled and said, “That’s going to be with us for the next six months.” 

As far as speeding is concerned, the officers said people will complain about speeding through their neighborhoods, but when it comes down to it, it’s probably their neighbors.  

They said Middle Township can set up the “Your Speed Is” notification signs, which tend to help. 

Miller said the MTPD was taking an aggressive stance on the pop-up car rally situations, which he said would continue to happen. The police had to deal with a lot of cars that congregated in Rio Grande prior to the events that led to two deaths in Wildwood. 

When asked about issues with ATVs and dirt bikes, Miller said they try to discourage improper use but will not pursue them and risk a crash that could injure the rider or someone else.  

Cpl. James D’Alonzo said no motorized vehicles are allowed on the bike paths and riders would be subject to a $1,000 fine if apprehended. 

Miller talked briefly about the ARRIVE Together pilot program in which a mental health professional will arrive at the scene of an incident separately from the police to respond to a mental or behavioral crisis.  

He said the MTPD is working closely with the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor’s Office on several such programs, such as the Veterans Diversion program. 

Miller also advised residents to be aware of issues of fraud, including “phishing” – which is phony emails or other messages purporting to be a legitimate source – as well as hacking. Miller said an individual had been cheated out of $50,000 recently, as the result of a phone scam. 

“This is now a multimillion-dollar business,” Miller said. 

Miller said to look carefully at what is being sent to your email or device, and when the address it is coming from looks fishy, don’t respond, or don’t even open it. 

Another common scam these days is for someone to call and say they are from the IRS and claim that law enforcement is coming to lock you up unless you make a payment.  

He said the IRS never calls people to demand money. Miller also said Western Union is not cooperating in helping to identify scam situations. 

Since 2021, the MTPD has generally held Cops & Coffee monthly but might schedule an event in response to a particular need.  

Businesses interested in hosting a Cops & Coffee event should contact Cpl. Phil Johnson at 609-465-8700, ext. 1922.  

Contact the author, Christopher South, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 128. 

Spout Off

Cape May – Everyone needs to remember that DT "Hush Money" trial is about his actions prior to him being the President. This is not about him doing actions as a President. He falsified documents to…

Read More

North Wildwood – Today's US House vote that was four months in the making and mirrors the Senate Bill of February, loosens the grip that MAGA extremism to allow America to support our allies in the fight against…

Read More

Cape May – If we could just figure a way to harness all the brain power used by Spouters to pen the National Spouts, and the very wise follow up responses, there would be no need for NJ ocean wind energy.

Read More

Most Read

Print Edition

Recommended Articles

Skip to content