Police Calls Were Up in Ocean City Despite New Ordinances

Police received 1,446 service calls over Father's Day Weekend, an increase of nearly 80%

photo unofficial OCNJ Facebook Page

When City Council called an emergency meeting after a raucous Memorial Day Weekend in Ocean City, they said it was essential to get new ordinances related to juvenile curfews and backpacks in effect before Father’s Day Weekend, which would be “the next weekend during which the city will receive a large influx of juveniles similar to the crowds seen during Memorial Day Weekend.”

The new ordinances were unanimously approved and their first weekend in effect was in fact Father’s Day Weekend.

So how did it go?

Anecdotally, things seemed to be much better on the Boardwalk and adjoining beaches. There were no reports of large teen gatherings or the mass chaos that the city experienced over Memorial Day Weekend.

I asked Chief of Police Jay Prettyman for some detail. And while things were indeed better on the Boards, the clampdown bred another potential issue— a wider net of incidents.

“In an effort to continue to provide most enjoyable experience as possible for our guests, we have once again adjusted the deployment of our officers so that we are able to maintain better presence along the boardwalk and also have a presence along the streets surrounding the boardwalk,” Prettyman said. “Although the boardwalk has been more enjoyable without the large groups of juveniles, the juveniles have now spread themselves through the downtown areas which is causing another challenge for our officers, but we will continue to adjust our operations to address these areas.”

There were a total of 1,446 service calls to police, up from 806 the same weekend last year. That’s a nearly 80% increase.

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Curbside warnings and stationhouse adjustments, which are measures exclusive to juveniles (basically they get two warnings and then get picked up and their parents are called), were down, as these are often related to gatherings on the beach.

Here’s what the raw data looks like for the three-day (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) period:

We weren’t provided explicit detail on the nature of the calls, which aren’t exclusive to juvenile infractions, so it’s hard to say what exactly led to the increase.

But clearly the clampdown and concentration on Boardwalk and nearby-beach misbehavior has led to a squeeze toy problem: teens were pushed off the Boardwalk onto the beaches, and then restricted from going on the beaches, but all of that juvenile energy had to disperse somewhere, so it fanned out across town.

smells like teen spirit

It’s worth noting that city officials and Prettyman have been publicly frustrated and feel handcuffed by state laws related to adequately policing underage offenses.

The next two weeks might be better indicators of the success or lack thereof of the new ordinances as New Jersey schools are done for the summer and the city expects more teens in town.

Prettyman is aware his department may have to react to a wider net of incidents.

“We remain committed to maintaining Ocean City’s reputation and will always continue to adjust our operations as needed based on the staffing we have available,” Prettyman said.