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Tuesday, July 23, 2024


Wildwood’s New Backpack Ban Making a Difference, Mayor Says

Folks enjoy a sunny summer’s day on the boardwalk in Wildwood.
File Photo
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the city’s backpack ban on the boardwalk and the juvenile curfew are showing signs of working to curb misbehavior.

By Christopher South

WILDWOOD – The Board of Commissioners has passed, on an emergency basis, an ordinance aimed at juveniles that bans backpacks in the vicinity of the boardwalk in the evenings and overnight.

Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the action June 12 was to give the police another tool to help them do their job considering the recent trend of youth unruliness at the Shore, most notably over the Memorial Day weekend. That weekend had police busy up and down the coast, with a stabbing/slashing on the Ocean City boardwalk and fights, shoplifting and general disorder in other towns.

Troiano said Wildwood, by introducing the ordinance on an emergency basis, was able to make the ban effective immediately, rather than after the usual 20 days for ordinances.

The city has banned the “wearing, carrying or otherwise possessing” of all bags larger than eight inches in depth, including bookbags, fanny packs, cinch bags, coolers, briefcases, luggage of any kind, computer bags and camera bags in the vicinity of the boardwalk between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. from May 1 to Sept. 30 every year.

The ordinance, which is not limited to juveniles, allows exceptions for medical devices and “essential equipment for any reporter for broadcast, electronic or printed media operating in a professional capacity for communication to the public, and officers of the Wildwood Police Department, city lifeguards and all other city officials shall be exempt from the provisions of this section when engaged in the conduct of official duties.”

The ordinance goes on to outline procedures, following directives from the attorney general, on handling juveniles, including giving two warnings. By ordinance, the warnings can include verbal warnings, signs and amplified announcements.

“Any person, adult or juvenile, found to be with a prohibited item shall be directed to the nearest exit of the beach, and all code violations shall be addressed as directed by the pertinent section of city code. The failure to comply with the directions of the enforcement city official shall constitute a violation of this section,” the ordinance says.

Troiano said the ordinance has been working well in the short time it has been in effect.

“It’s been successful,” he said. “You don’t know what they are bringing up with them – alcohol, marijuana or whatever.” He added that Ocean City and Sea Isle City instituted their own backpack bans last year.

He said many other towns across the state have had problems with juveniles, and they have been canceling events as a result.

The mayor said the police chief was concerned that if backpacks were allowed the police would not be able to control what is being brought onto the boardwalk. He said he would attempt to give the police chief every tool he needs to do his job.

Troiano said that, after the attorney general criticized Wildwood for not hiring enough police officers, he received multiple calls from the governor’s office offering help. He said that for the last three weekends the state has sent a task force of state policemen to Wildwood, which he said has been very helpful.

According to the mayor, the city’s 10 p.m. curfew is also working well. He said the previous weekend was a little busy with senior week – high school seniors crowding the city for an end-of-high-school fling.

“This is a problem that happens from Memorial Day and lasts a couple weeks. People send kids down … It’s a rite of passage, but the kids are undisciplined and uncontrolled,” he said.

Troiano said there is an announcement on the boardwalk advising juveniles that the curfew is in effect, and there are police at every sector of the boardwalk to encourage them to move along.

“We’re not here to make people miserable, so if you are behaving, we will have some discretion in dealing with you,” he said.

Call Christopher South at 609-868-8600 x-128 or email


Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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