The Jersey Shore is facing a new problem and there’s nothing police and municipal governments can do it about. Underage drinking, parties and impromptu and oftentimes disruptive beach parties are on the rise. Thanks to new legislation passed by Governor Phil Murphy regarding teen justice reform and New Jersey’s new marijuana law, they can’t really be stopped.
We’ve seen up and down the shore as large crowds of unruly teens from New York City and North Jersey cities have taken over beaches and boardwalks, but it’s not limited to that. Teens from the suburbs are hosting large house parties filled with underage drinking and cops are powerless to stop it.
In Beach Haven, a flash mob brought public drinking, pot-smoking, and public urination to the streets of the normally sleepy town. The town of Avalon has had to reduce its boardwalk and beach hours because of the volume of incidents.
Singlehandedly, Governor Phil Murphy’s policies are destroying the Jersey Shore in ways Superstorm Sandy could not.
Cops are now limited by the “Juvenile Justice Reform” enacted by Governor Phil Murphy. There are no longer real consequences in New Jersey for illegal behavior by teens.
First, all police interactions with juveniles must now start with a “Curbside Warning”. Essentially it turns police officers into makeshift parents to fill in for the absent moms and dads of the unruly teens.
Under the Murphy juvenile justice directive, a curbside warning is an informal “talking to”—one that typically arises when an officer observes a juvenile engage in some minor act of delinquency. The conversation occurs in the community, not at the police department, and can be as simple as an officer telling a teenager to “knock it off” without any further formal proceedings. Curbside warnings demonstrate to juveniles that officers are present to give guidance, direction, and assistance, and not simply to take them into custody.
If the action warrants more than just a “please stop” reaction from the police department, cops are then asked to act as family counselors and invite the teens and their parents to the police station for a fireside chat, called a “station adjustment”.
A stationhouse adjustment is more formal than a curbside warning, but is nonetheless designed to divert a juvenile from the juvenile justice system without the filing of charges. In such situations, an officer typically asks the juvenile and a parent or guardian/caregiver/designee to come to the police station to discuss an alleged offense and work together to develop an appropriate resolution, which is then memorialized in a written agreement. The officer may refer the juvenile for social services and, if property has been stolen or damaged, require the juvenile to make restitution in some form. The goal is to engage the parent or guardian/caregiver/designee—and, where appropriate, the victim—in any resolution, allowing the family and community resources to address the violation rather than the courts
If asking politely and a pow-wow with mom and dad doesn’t work, then police are asked to give tickets and not make arrests.
In more serious cases, an officer may conclude that an informal resolution is unlikely to be effective and that formal charges are necessary. Under court rules, officers and prosecutors may file charges using one of two charging documents: a “complaint-warrant,” which allows the officer to take custody of the charged individual and detain them, or a “complaint-summons,” which allows the individual to remain in the community until their initial court appearance. By treating the complaint-summons as the “default” charging document for juveniles—with the complaint-warrant reserved only for the most serious charges or to protect the public— officers and prosecutors can ensure that youthful offenders are not subject to unnecessary detention in a juvenile facility immediately following the filing of charges.
“When considering when and how to use each of these five mechanisms, officers and prosecutors should start with the presumption that juveniles should be diverted out of the juvenile justice system whenever possible, so long as the diversion will promote accountability, advance the juvenile’s rehabilitation, and not present safety risks to the community,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “To the extent that diversion is not possible, officers and prosecutors should next consider charging by way of complaint-summons, rather than complaint-warrant, whenever that can be accomplished without jeopardizing public safety or welfare. This framework reserves the complaint-warrant for the most serious charges or to protect the public, and accompanying requests for detention should result in the least restrictive means necessary to promote accountability and rehabilitation, and address safety risks.”