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March 29, 2023

Sea Isle City adopts curfew for teens, bans backpacks on beaches after 10 p.m. this summer

City Council passed the two ordinances on Tuesday, following a similar move made by Ocean City earlier this year

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Sea Isle City, New Jersey passed two ordinance this week including a curfew for minors and a ban on backpacks for all people after 10 p.m. in certain public spaces.

Sea Isle City will impose a 10 p.m. curfew for minors and ban everyone from carrying backpacks after that hour this summer, becoming the latest Jersey Shore town to tighten up local ordinances. The measures are intended to stop crowds of unattended teens from taking over public spaces and potentially bringing trouble to beaches and the city's promenade at night.

City council voted unanimously Tuesday morning to approve the curfew ordinance and the backpack ban on Sea Isle City's beaches, the promenade and the ends of beach blocks. 

The curfew for juveniles, described as an effort to "(reduce) juvenile violence and crime," starts on May 15 and runs through September 15. It will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the peak months of the spring and summer. From Sept. 16 through May 14, the curfew for people under 18 will be between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. One exception will be Halloween, with the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew starting again 72 hours before the holiday and running through the morning of Nov. 1.

The backpack ban covers all bags larger than 8 inches by 6 inches by 8 inches, including fanny packs, cinch bags, coolers, briefcases, computer and camera bags and luggage. These items will be prohibited between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. from May 15 through Sept. 15.

Both measures come as Jersey Shore communities weigh their options to put a stop to unruly gatherings of young people that have become common occurrences on summer nights. 

Many towns have dealt with problems such as litter, property damage, noise complaints, fighting, underage drinking and large, impromptu beach parties organized using social media. The long list of towns affected by these incidents in recent years includes Avalon, Point Pleasant, Margate, Long Branch and Seaside Heights.

In January, Ocean City revised local ordinances to give police officers the authority to detain minors for "breach of the peace" violations. The category covers offenses such as curfew violations, excessive noise, littering, vandalism, setting off illegal fireworks and riding bikes on the boardwalk after hours, among other common issues that have led to complaints.

In Ocean City, curfew hours for minors are between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. from May 16 through Sept. 30, and from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Oct. 1 through May 15, according to the city's website.

Instead of giving unruly teens curbside warnings, Ocean City officers will now be empowered to bring juveniles to the police station and call their parents to come pick them up, without filing any charges against the teens.

The same is true for the new curfew ordinance in Sea Isle City, except that police will lean on curbside warnings as their initial intervention. Minors who break curfew will be given two curbside warnings before a third offense results in them being brought to the police station. In either case, teens will not face juvenile delinquency charges or court summons, except potentially in instances when other laws are broken. 

The curfew measure does include some exceptions. Minors accompanied by parents or guardians are permitted to be out past curfew. Teens returning from work or participating in another authorized activity are also permitted to be out later. The same is true for minors who have been sent out for specific errands by parents and guardians and intend to return home. 

But under the ordinance, parents and guardians could be held liable and face fines ranging from $250 to $1,500 if they knowingly allow minors to violate the city's curfew. Penalties will be based on the number of offenses committed. 

If minors out past curfew refuse to give an officer a name and address, and their parents or guardians cannot be located, police may then take juveniles to the police station and later to a temporary care facility until the curfew period ends.

Sea Isle City's backpack ordinance also includes exceptions for medical devices, supplies for active fishing on the beach and essential equipment for journalists.

Information about backpacks will be posted on signs along the promenade and beaches, and broadcast through announcements over the speaker system. Officers may also give up to two warnings to adults and juveniles carrying unauthorized bags. Failure to leave the beach or promenade will be considered a breach of peace violation.

Adults who violate the backpack ban could face fines between $25-$100 for a first offense. A second offense within a year of the first could result in an additional fine between $35-$65. Third and subsequent offenses could trigger more fines between $50-$100.

Juveniles who violate the backpack ban will be given two curbside warnings and a chance to remove their bags from the promenade before they are brought to the police station. Their parents will then be called to address the matter.

Members of Sea Isle City council did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment about the new ordinances.

The backpack ban appears to be targeted toward teens who may bring weapons or drugs to the promenade and the beaches, which pose "a real and serious threat to life and safety," the ordinance states.

As with the curfew ordinance, juveniles with banned backpacks will not be charged for breach of peace violations and will not be given court summons, unless other violations of state law are found during encounters with police.