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New Jersey police union calls for 'real consequences' for drunk, rowdy teens after boardwalk unrest

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — (AP) — New Jersey's statewide police union said Wednesday there needs to be “real consequences” for drunken, rowdy teens and adults who create mayhem in public places following a series of disturbances at Jersey Shore towns over the Memorial Day weekend that included the stabbing of a teen.

Peter Andreyev, president of the New Jersey State Policemens' Benevolent Association, issued a statement calling for changes in laws and procedures governing how police interact with disorderly teens and young adults.

His statement followed a weekend in which a wave of disorderly juveniles and young adults overwhelmed police capabilities in Wildwood on Sunday night, leading the city to close and clear the boardwalk temporarily.

Ocean City suffered its second consecutive Memorial Day weekend of disruptions, with numerous fights, disturbances and the stabbing of a 15-year-old boy. He is recovering from non-life-threatening wounds.

And a false report of a shooting in Seaside Heights briefly led to panic on the boardwalk there, authorities said.

“The recent juvenile outbursts are a sign that more needs to be done to allow police to protect our communities," Andreyev said. "This past weekend is just more proof that the law is broken. There needs to be real consequences for violent, drunken, and dangerous behavior for both juveniles and adults.

“Having no consequences for bad behavior has proved itself again to be a failed criminal justice policy,” he continued. "Thousands of people were impacted by the lawlessness this weekend; that must be stopped.”

Officials in numerous Jersey Shore towns, along with multiple police departments, blame juvenile justice reforms enacted by the state in recent years. The laws were designed to keep more juveniles out of the court system and imposed several restrictions on police officers' interactions with them.

In January, the law was revised to remove some of the threats of punishment for officers dealing with juveniles suspected of possessing alcohol or marijuana.

Gov. Phil Murphy said those changes have put law enforcement in a better position to deal with disorderly teens. In an interview with News 12 New Jersey, the governor said Tuesday that ”the shore did not have a chaotic weekend.”

"The weekend was overwhelmingly a successful weekend, including even in those towns,” Murphy told the television station. “I was on a couple hours ago with the Wildwood mayor, and he said we had a fantastic weekend, we happened to have this overrunning of, it sounds like, a bunch of teenagers.”

The state attorney general's office declined comment.

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said his city has had enough of rowdy young people bent on causing trouble.

“Our officers made multiple arrests ... and were able to quickly restore order to the boardwalk once the teens involved in these incidents were removed,” he wrote in a message posted on the city's website. "We have a highly qualified team of officers on the boardwalk and throughout town, and they will enforce all laws to the fullest.

"Ocean City will always be welcoming to all guests, but I want to send a clear message to parents and to teens: If you don’t want to behave, don’t come.”

In a message on his own city's website, Wildwood Mayor Ernest Troiano Jr. voiced similar sentiments.

“Wildwood will not tolerate unruly, undisciplined, unparented children nor will we stand by while the laws of the state tie the hands of the police," he wrote. "We wholeheartedly support the city of Wildwood Police Department in protecting this community from these nuisance crowds on our boardwalk and in the city.”

Wildwood officials did not give details about individual incidents that led to the 6-hour overnight closure of the boardwalk but said there was “an irrepressible number” of calls for help to the police department.

The Cape May County prosecutor said Wildwood police acted correctly in closing the boardwalk to restore order.

Two Republican state senators called Wednesday on the Democrat-controlled Legislature to pass their bill expanding the definition of a riot, enabling local officials in towns that are proposing budget cuts to police to appeal to the state to restore the money, and adding imprisonment of up to six months for someone who throws something at or strikes police officers or other first responders.

“Riots and vandalism will drive visitors away and devastate the summer season," said Sen. Robert Singer, who proposed the legislation with Sen. Joseph Pennacchio. "As a state, we cannot afford that.”

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