Avalon is the latest New Jersey shore town to limit access to the beach and boardwalk because of concerns about unsafe and disruptive behavior by crowds of young people.

Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi blamed the situation on state initiatives calling on authorities to issue only warnings to juveniles for offenses including possession of alcohol and cannabis. But Gov. Phil Murphy disagrees.

When asked about his reaction to the problems taking place down the shore by teens and others, Murphy said there are a lot of reasons why folks are behaving the way they are.

He said this would include “coming out of the pandemic when you’ve been locked down, when you’ve been going to school remotely, when you’ve been working remotely, I’d throw on that hot as heck weather.”

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said laws that have been passed that limit the ability of police to crack down on young people who have alcohol and pot are sending a dangerous message.

“The message is you can’t do anything to me and therefore I’m not worried about whatever I do,” he said.

Bramnick noted these laws may be well intentioned but “it’s gone too far and this is the consequence — the consequence is groups get together with impunity and they’re not worried about the police. It is crazy.”

Murphy said state officials meet on this issue “constantly” and the State Police, the Attorney General’s Office, county prosecutors and local police "take preemptive actions on a regular basis.”

The governor then made a plea to young people.

“We understand you have been cooped up for 16 months, we know it’s hot as heck outside, please behave responsibly,” he said. “It’s one thing to have fun and who could blame you for wanting to have fun after what we’ve gone through. But do it responsibly.”

New Jersey State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said there’s always a balance between enforcement and making sure people have a good time responsibly, and in recent days when he as visited the shore he has seen nothing but responsible behavior.

Mayor Pagliughi issued an executive order last Friday that restricts access to the beach from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and closes the boardwalk between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. that’s designed to allow police “to disperse large groups of individuals who are congregating in unmanageable numbers on public property which often results in unsafe and disruptive behavior."

He told the Associated Press that "recently, the beach and boardwalk have experienced vandalism to public property and excessive litter and debris created by large groups of individuals who congregate at night.”

State leaders have said changes were needed in dealing with teens and other young people to end racial disparities that have taken place especially in urban areas.

State Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cumberland, said nighttime beach and boardwalk closures in Avalon are the direct result of so-called “social justice” reforms enacted by Gov. Phil Murphy that allow kids to break the law without any fear of consequences.

“Gov. Murphy’s quest for social justice makes police the criminals if they dare to stop, detain, or question rowdy teenagers who are destroying property, openly using drugs and alcohol, or disrupting our communities.”

Over the Fourth of July weekend, Long Beach Island officials said at least 300 teens converged on the borough, the Asbury Park Press reported. Large crowds were also reported in Beach Haven and prompted cancelation of the holiday fireworks display in Long Branch. Toms River police have imposed a curfew, citing complaints about youth crowds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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