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June 16, 2023

This weekend, Ocean City enacts new curfew for minors, backpack ban on boardwalk

After 11 p.m., minors must be accompanied by an adult chaperone. Backpacks are prohibited for everyone after 8 p.m.

Government Beaches
Ocean City Curfew Beaches Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Ocean City now has an 11 p.m. curfew for minors. Backpacks are banned on the boardwalk for all people after 8 p.m.

Ocean City leaders approved a new 11 p.m. curfew for minors and a ban on backpacks on the boardwalk after 8 p.m. The measures are part of a wider effort to discourage unruly teen behavior that has become a problem at the shore town. 

City council unanimously approved the measures on Thursday after they were introduced earlier this month by Mayor Jay Gillian. Ocean City's beaches and public bathrooms now close at 8 p.m. Under the new youth curfew, anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult chaperone after 11 p.m. Exceptions are made for teens traveling to and from summer jobs and those participating in organized activities such as religious or recreation programs. The city's previous curfew for minors was 1 a.m. 

The backpack ban applies to people of all ages on the boardwalk. The new rule prohibits any bag larger than 8 inches by 6 inches by 8 inches after 8 p.m. The goal is to prevent people from carrying alcohol, drugs, weapons, fireworks and other items officials want to keep off the boardwalk.

The policies were created in response to a hundreds incidents over Memorial Day weekendincluding calls for underage drinking, vandalism, assaults, shoplifting and the confiscation of a gun, officials said earlier this month. 

Gillian called for a pair of emergency meetings this month, including Thursday night's vote, to get the new policies on the books. 

"I would like to ask parents and guardians to partner with us by respecting these new ordinances and making sure their kids do the same," Gillian said Friday in a statement on the city's website. 

In January, Ocean City became the first shore town to further empower police to deal with these issues. The city's revised "breach of peace" code now enables officers to detain juveniles for a range of violations, from littering and excessive noise to breaking curfew and vandalism. Teens who break the law can be held until their parents or legal guardians come to pick them up. The detainments do not result in permanent records, but they give police more authority than they previously had when issuing curbside warnings, which proved ineffective at stopping disruptive behavior.

Ocean City is one of several towns, including Wildwood and Sea Isle City, that have taken action this year to address unruly behavior on beaches and boardwalks. 

Wildwood revised its laws to prohibit all alcoholic beverages on the beach and boardwalk — whether containers are open or closed — and also moved to give police officers more power with breach of peace ordinances similar to those in Ocean City. 

Sea Isle City enacted a 10 p.m. curfew for minors and restricted the use of backpacks on the promenade for all people between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. between May and October.