Lavallette became the latest Jersey Shore town to institute a teen curfew after officials said the borough experienced thousands of dollars in damage to public property and EMTs saw an uptick in alcohol-related calls over the recent Memorial Day Weekend.
Things had quieted down a bit this past weekend, members of the borough council said, but like neighboring towns, it was recommended to implement a curfew for those under the age of 18 for the summer. The curfew will mirror that which was adopted by executive order in Toms River before the holiday weekend began, and which may be considered later this week by the Seaside Heights council after throngs of teens engaged in underage drinking and fighting on the streets. During the holiday weekend, locals reported seeing the large groups marching south along Route 35.
“We had several alcohol-fueled events on Saturday,” said Councilman James Borowski, who also serves as a volunteer EMT in town. “Fortunately on Sunday and Monday people got control of themselves, and there wasn’t as much demand.”
Vandalism was one of the driving factors of the curfew.
Councilman Robert Lamb said a $1,400 light pole was completely knocked down, a drinking fountain destroyed, and decorative light posts along Bay Boulevard were knocked down and kicked.
“They stole some street signs too,” Lamb said.
Altogether, about $6,000 in damage was recorded to public property. There was also some private property damage reported, including a decorative street sign made by a resident.
“Some of these were big-ticket items,” said Borough Administrator John O. Bennett.
The curfew prohibits teens unaccompanied by an adult from being on the streets of Lavallette from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. from June 1 to Sept. 5, 2023.
Residents said they saw groups of trouble-making teens from their homes, though they didn’t personally experience any damage, suggesting police either install cameras in certain parts of town or ask homeowners to turn over footage from home security cameras to police in order to identify vandals.
“If you can do this and get away with it – no one is ever charged and no one is ever caught – it becomes whack-a-mole,” said resident William Murray.
“I can see a lot of stuff going on,” added resident Vince Marino. “A lot of the residents on Bay Boulevard have video cameras, and I watch the news from New York and that’s how they’re catching people.”
Bennett said the crowds that descended upon the borough Memorial Day weekend were nearly unprecedented.
“We had as much water consumption on Memorial Day weekend this year as we did last year on Fourth of July weekend last year – 900,000 gallons,” he said.
Making matters worse, the borough’s complement of special police officers hired for the summer was not yet in place. Lavallette’s new police chief, Christian LaCicero, just recently got to work after the borough sued the county prosecutor’s office to take back its own police department. During the time the county was in command, the summer officers were not hired and one academy class was missed, officials said. The officers should be in place shortly now that the town has retaken control of its department, and the council hired one Class II special officer – a higher grade special officer authorized to carry a weapon – Monday night. There will also be two code enforcement officers who will work varying hours – including, potentially, at night – who can keep an eye out.
“This was triggered by what happened Memorial Day weekend with the vandalism – we needed something more significant to rely upon,” said Bennett.