The Point Pleasant Beach Borough Council voted Tuesday to spend $95,000 for additional weekend police coverage to stem what's being called the most crime-ridden summer in the past 17 years.
The vote for the emergency appropriation was taken during an overcrowded public meeting that was the evening's first of two meetings.
That was followed by a second meeting where residents voiced their concerns and then the meeting was closed to the public so Mayor Vincent Barrella, Councilmen Sean Hennessy and Michael Corbally and owners of 15 to 20 boardwalk and other local businesses could discuss potential solutions privately.
During the first meeting, council members Hennessy, Corbally, Tim Lurie, Jeff Dyer and Kristine Tooker, who was attending her second council meeting via teleconference, voted for the funding for police overtime pay. Councilman Frank Rizzo was absent.
Barrella also supported the concept, but cannot vote unless there is a tie.
Plain-clothes patrols, overtime
The allocation includes $20,000 for plain-clothes bicycle patrols staffed by full-time police officers four nights per week for the remainder of the summer.
That calls for officers working in pairs doing four-hour patrols at peak hours, which costs $700 per shift, said police Chief Kevin O'Hara. The balance of the $95,000 is $75,000 for regular officers to work overtime on supervisory and enforcement duties during peak tourist hours, he said.
The problem time periods are late Friday and Saturday nights, into the following mornings, and Sunday and Monday evenings, O'Hara said.
Tooker and Corbally said they were voting for the amount but would have preferred allocating the entire $155,000 requested by the police department.
The request was made as part of a presentation by O'Hara and Lt. Robert Dikun, who had drafted a seven-page report offering short-term and long-term solutions to the problem of rampant, petty crimes during the weekends.
"We asked the chief and the lieutenant for their judgment, they told us and, yet again, we're ignoring them," Tooker said. "If we had listened to the police months ago, maybe we could have headed off some of this."
Tooker also said that increasing amusement game and special event fees paid by boardwalk businesses could have generated more revenue to help pay for the police overtime.
However, she noted, a majority of council voted against those measures, reducing the special event fees to zero.
However, Dyer said he was concerned about allocating $155,000 that could affect next year's state-mandated, 2 percent budgetary spending cap.
"But we may allocate more at a later date," he said. "I want to get more information in October. If our revenue isn't as much, that will help us make our decision."
"So there is a price of quality of life, in other words," Barrella said.
"I know it's your political season, mayor," Dyer responded.
Barrella, who is running for re-election against Lurie and Republican Steven Reid, laughed, while some residents booed Dyer.
A unidentified woman in the back of the room yelled out, "Don't even say that!"
Corbally, who is not up for re-election this year, said, "It's not my political season, and I don't care what the revenue numbers are. We need this for our quality of life. People could get hurt."
Lurie, who had made the motion for $95,000, said it was a good compromise, would help to stem the problem now and could be built on later, possibly through additional funding.
Disorderly conduct complaints
Much of the commentary about weekend problems has centered on boardwalk bar patrons stumbling drunk out of bars when they close, so that has drawn attention to Jenkinson's which, along with Martell's, runs the most popular boardwalk bars.
Marilou Halvorsen, Jenkinson's marketing director, told residents that 10 members of the Storino family, who own Jenkinson's, were at the meeting.
"I just want residents to rest assured that we do take this very seriously and are listening. We want to work on a compromise," she said.
She also left her business cards for residents to call her.
Anthony Storino, one of the owners, was at the meeting, but referred all questions to Halvorsen during a break between the two meetings.
Halvorsen said that the Storino family members present spanned three generations.
Ben DeSpoto, Parkway, had a message for them.
He said during the public portion that boardwalk bartenders should stop serving patrons when it's clear they've had enough.
"They need to cut them off earlier," he said. "There is too much alcohol being consumed."
During the break, when Halvorsen was asked if bartenders can stop serving sooner, she said, "We have a strict policy against over-serving. All of our bartenders are trained and certified."
So why are so many people coming out drunk?
"I'm not saying it can never happen," she said. "But when you hear that people are walking around with beer cans, they're not leaving Jenkinson's with cans or bottles. So that must be people staying in motels or rentals who are getting those bottles from somewhere else."
According to many residents, the heavy drinking on the boardwalk has been leading to a lot of disorderly conduct, often on their lawns, sidewalks and even backyards.
Those problems include boardwalk patrons urinating on residents' lawns and sidewalks, stumbling around loud and drunken in the streets, cursing loudly, dumping soiled diapers and liquor bottles on properties and streets, simple assault, resisting arrest, drunken driving, several thefts and burglaries and other forms of "disorderly conduct."
Scott Bassinder, son of David Bassinder, the owner of Martell's, was also at the meeting, along with other boardwalk business owners and local restaurant and hotel owners.
Kristin Hennessy, who lives on New Jersey Avenue, said it is not only tourists who behave poorly. She said she has seen men playing basketball at Pleasure Park on Forman Avenue, across the street from St. Peter's Church and School, urinating.
"And that's where our children play in the mornings," she said.
She said the former code enforcement task force should be reinstated so that code enforcement officers are working with special police officers to crack down on violations.
There were more than 100 people filling the council meeting room, spilling out into the hallway on one side and filling a small room on the other side by an elevator.
During the second meeting, which was not quite as packed because some residents had left, a man said that he had missed the first meeting because he was in the hallway.
He said the next time the mayor and council anticipate a large turnout, they should have the meeting at a local school that has larger capacity.
Anyone who wants a copy of the police action plan, called "Operation Rice Krispies" can obtain a copy at Borough Hall or on the municipal web site.