Littering laws rarely enforced on Jersey Shore beaches
Despite "No Littering" signs warning of fines, trash is left on Jersey Shore beaches every day and the law is rarely enforced.
Catching litter bugs is "very difficult," according to Beach Haven Police Sgt. Thomas Medel.
"We don't have the manpower to man the beach. We have the lifeguards, and typically if the lifeguards have any issue they call us," said Medel.
Medel doesn't recall any specific citations being handed out for littering during his nearly 17 year police career, and also pointed out another problem with enforcement.
"Unfortunately, people get up and leave before any notices they've left behind a mountain of trash," Medel said.
The responsibility of cleaning up the beaches falls under the Borough's Public Works Department, according to Medel. He commended the crew for doing a tremendous job every day.
"They're out there at six o'clock in the morning with a beach rake and a truck on the beach emptying the trash out and picking up big stuff left behind," he said. "Everything from beach chairs to boogie boards are left behind a lot of times, and towards the end of the summer it gets worse because people don't want to carry it home."
The fine for littering in Beach Haven ranges between $200 to $250 depending on the location, whether at the beach or on the street, according to Medel. He noted that as a former Boy Scout, he always was taught to "leave it better than you found it" and hopes visitors to Beach Haven will keep that in mind.
Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, sympathizes with beach towns that are overwhelmed with responsibilities during the summer, but pointed out, "We all have the litter laws on the books and unless they're enforced, they're not going to be adhered to, and people are going to litter."
She said beach management teams "could also be deputized in some way" to help catch litterers.
Targeting litterers for a specific period of time could send a strong message and reduce beach clean-up costs for towns, Zipf said.
Littering on the beach poses a risk to the environment, where Zipf said it can, "harm and kill marine life," providing an added importance to keeping the beaches clean.
Last year during Clean Ocean Action's annual fall and spring beach sweeps, Zipf said in just two days volunteers collected over 330,000 items that were either left behind or washed up on the beach.
"That's extraordinary numbers and we have to be more careful," said Zipf.
"This is just a simple task of being responsible with the waste that you're generating."
She added Clean Ocean Action is always looking for ways in which to work with municipalities to find innovative solutions to dealing with these problems.
"We open our hearts and our doors to any municipality that would really like to try to make this a priority and see if we can't set some great models for how to address litter in coastal towns or in any town," said Zipf.