Seaside Heights reported one of its best revenue-producing years ever for its beaches in 2023 – money that will be re-invested into beach and boardwalk maintenance – but tackled scams all season long involving both phony beach badges and handicap parking placards.
The borough generated $2,458,956 in beach badge sales for the season, as calculated the day after Labor Day weekend saw a close to the busiest time of year in town; parking revenue was not immediately available. In all, officials said, it was a good season – arrests for criminal offenses were down, revenue kept pace with last year’s total of $2,471,000, and attendance at events impressed organizers. But not every crime makes headlines or ends up with someone in handcuffs – that doesn’t mean, however, that they are not embarrassing.
Officials said this season they saw, for the first time, people trying to pass counterfeit beach badges – usually daily wristbands – as legitimate. Led by a particular parking enforcement officer, the borough also embarked on a major crackdown on the use of counterfeit handicap parking placards.
“Once we started noticing it, spotting them became like a sport, like whack-a-mole,” Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz said, of the phony wristbands. “We had some homeowners out there getting on a computer with a laser printer, scanner and taking last year’s badges and superimposing the logos and colors.”
There are a few year-to-year changes to badges, however, and some eagle-eyed badge checkers were able to bust the scofflaws. By season’s end, there were about a dozen “captures” and the offenders were issued summonses.
Handicap Parking Crackdown
Taking away an opportunity for a disabled person to enjoy a day at the beach became an issue that caught the attention of one parking enforcement officer this season, who brought the issue to Chief Tommy Boyd, who agreed a crackdown on phony placards was a quality-of-life issue worth focusing on this season.
The scam isn’t new, but technology has made it easier than ever before for some people to get away with.
“It was done by the mob many years ago, but today they do it online,” Boyd said. “You select your state and they mail it out to you.”
Officers this summer would enforce the placard by checking its registration number. If the person was willing to turn over the fake placard, they were issued a $250 ticket and sent on their way. But if they refused, they were subject to prosecution under state law.
“It is a crime – we can charge you criminally if you have a fake card,” said Boyd. “We don’t like to do that, but we do issue them a fine unless they don’t turn them over, then they may be charged criminally.”
Boyd said the police cannot tow the vehicle, “but we can run the number on it so we know who it’s registered to.” At one time, he said, police departments across New Jersey were aggressive in enforcing handicap parking credentials, but it’s lagged in recent times.
“We’re probably the first town in the state of New Jersey that’s cracking down on these stickers in a while,” said Boyd, with well over 100 having been confiscated and word getting out online that the practice isn’t tolerated in Seaside Heights. “We’ve cut down on that immensely. One guy we caught this weekend said he had a 104-year-old mother with him.”
A Quality-of-Life Issue
“There’s always a scheme, and you try to do what you can about it,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. “You can send away for the handicap placards, people print up the wristbands. We’ve issued summonses, court appearances and more.”
One of the issues police heard the most complaints about this summer was illegal smoking on the beach and boardwalk – especially the pungent odor of marijuana smoke. Having a dedicated corps of seasonal officers patrolling the boardwalk and beach area, led by a sergeant dedicated to enforcement in the tourism zone, aided in enforcing the state’s clean air statute.
“We’ve written the most tickets ever on the beach for smoking,” said Boyd. “So, we’re down for arrests, but we focused on quality-of-life this summer and were active and up a bit.”