Testa Renews Call for Criminal Justice Reforms to Help Towns Maintain Law & Order
Senator Michael Testa is calling on the New Jersey Legislature to approve criminal justice reform bills that would help towns to reverse a trend of lawlessness by drunk and rowdy teenagers. His comments followed a weekend of chaos in several Shore communities, including Ocean City, which adopted strict new beach and boardwalk restrictions to try to maintain law and order.
“The lawlessness that I saw play out in our Shore towns over Memorial Day weekend was shocking. Large crowds and pop-up parties continue to cause damage to local communities and it will only get worse as summer approaches,” said Testa (R-1). “Underage drinking, vandalism, and drug use were all on display with very little consequences to those in attendance. Residents and tourists fear for their safety and business owners will suffer the consequences unless the Legislature and the Governor step up and address this issue head on.”
On Thursday, Ocean City passed an emergency public safety ordinance after police say they responded to nearly 1,000 incidents during the Memorial Day weekend ranging from underage drinking and vandalism to assault. Under the new rules, beaches will close at 8 p.m. and boardwalk bathrooms will close at 10 p.m. Additionally, carrying backpacks will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on both the beach and the boardwalk and an 11 p.m. curfew will be put in place for minors.
After the emergency ordinance was adopted, Testa joined the mayor and police chief on the city’s boardwalk for a press conference to lend his support and call for legislative action.
Testa sponsors a number of criminal justice reform bills that would help address many of the problems that Shore communities are experiencing, including:
- S-642, removes criminal liability for law enforcement officers who have an investigative encounter with an underage person for possession of alcohol or cannabis unless civil rights are violated;
- S-1206, enhances penalties for certain crimes committed during riots and creates new crimes of mob intimidation and cyber-intimidation by publication;
- S-3622, allows municipality to establish alcohol-free and cannabis-free areas and to impose civil penalties for violations;
- SR-113, urges the Governor and the Attorney General to provide assistance to municipalities in response to unpermitted mass gatherings and pop-up parties in New Jersey;
- S-3398, permits designation of special event zones for traffic regulation purposes during certain large events. The impetus for this bill arose from the unsanctioned H2Oi car rally in Wildwood last September which killed 2 people and injured several others; and
- SCR-20, amends Constitution to dedicate money credited to the “9-1-1 System and Emergency Response Trust Fund Account” to maintain 9-1-1 system and emergency response.
“The Murphy administration’s continued inaction in helping Shore towns respond to pop-up parties is disturbing,” said Testa. “I fully support Ocean City’s efforts, but there aren’t many small towns that can maintain public safety and effectively protect their communities when thousands of rowdy people suddenly show up with little or no warning. New Jerseyans are tired of the Governor kicking the can down the road. It’s time for the Legislature to act like the co-equal branch of government that it is and pass sweeping new public safety reforms to protect our Shore communities.”