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Should Seaside Park Consider a Juvenile Curfew?

Seaside Park water tower. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Seaside Park water tower. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Seaside Park officials have yet to decide whether or not the borough should impose a juvenile curfew like many neighboring communities.

The curfews were borne out of incidents involving teenagers in Ortley Beach last summer and Seaside Heights over Memorial Day weekend, in which large groups converged on a location at once, often intoxicated, and fighting with police and each other. New Jersey’s juvenile justice reform laws, however, limit the interactions police can have with those under 18 – including restrictions on confiscating illicit substances, arresting teens for certain crimes, or asking certain questions – has exacerbated the problem, officials say.

So far, while Seaside Park residents did report some instances of vandalism and mischief over the holiday weekend, none of the major problems seen in some communities, such as Seaside Heights, Ocean City and Wildwood, experienced. But with Seaside Heights aiming for a major crackdown, could the teens gravitate one town south?

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“I think it’s something to be proactive about, rather than reactive once something happens,” said Councilman Frank “Fritz” McHugh. “When I grew up around here, there wasn’t the technology to get together by phone. Word would get around, but locally. Now they pull from all over the state.”

Borough Attorney Steven Zabarsky said towns can still impose curfews on juveniles.

“You can establish a curfew that the juvenile cannot be on any public road or street,” Zabarsky said, unless they are with an adult or not participating in any certain constitutionally-protected activities.

“They’re legal, but they focus on juveniles,” he said, telling council members that a curfew would not be able to stop adults from coming to town en masse for a so-called “pop-up” party, many of which turn out-of-control and require police intervention.

“I think, maybe, we should look into that sooner rather than later,” said McHugh. “If everyone else has a curfew and we don’t, you know where they’re going.”

Seaside Heights officials have floated a curfew, but have not adopted one, with concerns over its enforceability or practicality in a resort town with a large boardwalk.

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