Governor Murphy criticized for handling of coastal violence

❗ Lawmakers push for tougher laws against violent youth

❗ NJ police union supports stricter laws

❗ Governor Phil Murphy downplays violence on the coast

After a weekend of chaos and violence in some of New Jersey's most popular coastal towns, pressure is growing on Governor Phil Murphy and state Democrats to crack down on juvenile delinquency.

“Riots and vandalism will drive away visitors and ruin the summer season. We cannot afford that as a state,” said Senator Robert Singer (Republican of Lakewood).

Crowds and police on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, 05/25/24

Crowds and police on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, 05.25.24 (@xoJillyBeanxo via Instagram)

Singer and Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) have introduced a bill that they say will “protect communities and give police the ability to prevent future incidents.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, a teenager was stabbed to death on the Ocean City boardwalk. A state of emergency was declared in Wildwood due to civil unrest. A false report of gunshots sent people running down the boardwalk in Seaside Heights.

“The horrific events in Ocean City were completely out of control and absolutely unacceptable. It was another preventable incident that should never have happened, but the legislature botched it,” Pennacchio said.

Democrats, who control the state legislature, have not yet introduced any bills that would give police the power to more effectively combat juvenile crime.

The police also demand changes

On Wednesday, New Jersey's largest police union also called on Governor Murphy and the state legislature to change existing laws that protect drunken, violent youth and adults who cause chaos in public places.

Peter Andreyev, president of the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association, appeared on the Steve Trevelese Show on New Jersey 101.5.

“The officers who are out there on the front lines every day are trying to do the right thing, but they have one hand tied behind their back,” Andreyev said.

He says there must be “real consequences” for this kind of violent and dangerous behavior. Currently, Andreyev claims, there are none, and young people know that.

Appendix-Se. Robert Singer R-Location or Affiliation

“Last weekend is just further proof that the law is being broken. Violent, drunken and dangerous behavior must have real consequences for both young people and adults.”

“Having no consequences for bad behavior has once again proven itself to be a failed criminal justice policy,” he continued. “Thousands of people were affected by this weekend's lawlessness; it must stop.”

What will Murphy and the Democrats do?

It's not clear. Probably not much.

On Tuesday, Murphy downplayed the notion that there was “chaos” on the New Jersey coast.

While officials in numerous cities along the New Jersey coast, as well as several police departments, blame the rise in lawlessness on the boardwalk on juvenile justice reforms passed by the state in recent years, Murphy and Democratic Party leaders are reluctant to make changes.

The aim of these laws was to keep more juveniles out of the court system, and they imposed several restrictions on police officers' interactions with juveniles.

Appendix-Se. Robert Singer R-Location or Affiliation (1)

In January, the law was revised to remove some of the penalties for officers dealing with juveniles suspected of possessing alcohol or marijuana, but many obstacles remain.

For example, young people do not have to show identification when requested by an official, says Andreyev.

“When we try to identify them (the juveniles), they don't have to give up their information,” Andreyev told New Jersey 101.5. “They can say, 'No, I don't want to talk to you.' Then what is the officer supposed to do? How do you investigate a crime if someone isn't cooperating?”

What does the new legislative proposal achieve?

This does not repeal the juvenile justice reforms supported by Governor Murphy.

In fact, the law offers police more protection and prosecutors more opportunities to keep perpetrators incarcerated for violent crimes.

Under S-399:

🚨 Expands the categories of sedition to include serious sedition, incitement to sedition, and serious incitement to sedition.

🚨 A municipality has an obligation to enable municipal law enforcement to respond appropriately to protect persons and property during riots or unlawful assembly based on the availability of adequate equipment for its municipal law enforcement officers and applicable state and federal laws.

🚨 If a municipality's preliminary budget provides for a reduction in funding for the municipal law enforcement agency's operating budget, the municipal attorney or any member of the governing body who objects to the reduction may file an appeal with the Division of Local Government Services in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs within 30 days of the publication of the preliminary budget on the municipality's official website.

🚨 If an object is thrown at certain law enforcement officers, including police officers, during a riot, or if law enforcement officers are struck, whether with an object or not, the presumption of no imprisonment for the first offense of a third degree felony does not apply, and a mandatory sentence of six months imprisonment applies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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