Pressure is mounting on Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats in the state legislature to get tough on juvenile crime following a weekend of chaos and violence at some of New Jersey's most popular shore destinations.

“Riots and vandalism will drive visitors away and devastate the summer season. As a state, we cannot afford that,” said Sen. Robert Singer (R-Lakewood).

Crowds, police on the Seaside Heights boardwalk 5/25/24
Crowds, police on the Seaside Heights boardwalk 5/25/24 (@xoJillyBeanxo via Instagram)

Singer and Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) have introduced legislation they claim "will protect communities and empower police to prevent future incidents."

A teenager was stabbed on the Ocean City boardwalk over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Civil unrest forced a state of emergency in Wildwood. A false report about gunshots sent people running down the boardwalk in Seaside Heights.

Peter Andreyev NJ PBA

"The dreadful activity in Ocean City was completely out of control and totally unacceptable. It was yet another preventable incident, and it should never have happened, but the Legislature dropped the ball,” said Pennacchio.

Democrats who control the state legislature have yet to take any action on bills that would empower police to deal more effectively with juvenile crime.

Police are also asking for change

On Wednesday, New Jersey's largest police union also called on Gov. Murphy and the legislature to change current laws that shield drunken, rowdy teens and adults who create mayhem in public places.

Peter Andreyev, president of the New Jersey State Policemens' Benevolent Association, appeared on the Steve Trevelese show on New Jersey 101.5.

"Those officers that are out there on the frontlines every day are trying to do the right thing, but they are working with one hand tied behind their back," Andreyev said.

He says there needs to be “real consequences” for this type of rowdy and dangerous behavior. There aren't any now, Andreyev claims, and juveniles know it.

attachment-Se. Robert Singer R-Location or affiliation

"This past weekend is just more proof that the law is broken. There needs to be real consequences for violent, drunken, and dangerous behavior for both juveniles and adults."

“Having no consequences for bad behavior has proved itself again to be a failed criminal justice policy,” he continued. "Thousands of people were impacted by the lawlessness this weekend; that must be stopped.”

What will Murphy and Democrats do?

That is not clear. Probably not much.

On Tuesday, Murphy downplayed the notion there was 'chaos' at the Jersey Shore.

While officials in numerous Jersey Shore towns, along with multiple police departments, blame juvenile justice reforms enacted by the state in recent years for a rise in lawlessness on the boardwalk, Murphy and Democratic leaders have been reluctant to enact changes.

The laws were designed to keep more juveniles out of the court system and imposed several restrictions on police officers’ interactions with them.

attachment-Se. Robert Singer R-Location or affiliation (1)

In January, the law was revised to remove some of the threats of punishment for officers dealing with juveniles suspected of possessing alcohol or marijuana, but many barriers remain.

For example, Andreyev says, juveniles do not have to produce ID if requested by an officer.

"If we try to identify them (juveniles), they don't have to provide their information," Andreyev told New Jersey 101.5, "They can say 'no, I don't want to talk to you.' What's the officer going to do? How do you investigate a crime when you have someone that is uncooperative?"

What does the new proposed law do?

It does not repeal the juvenile justice reforms supported by Gov. Murphy.

The legislation does give police more protections and prosecutors more tools to keep offenders incarcerated for acts of violence.

Under S-399:

🚨 Expands the categories of riot to include aggravated riot, inciting a riot and aggravated inciting a riot.

🚨 A municipality has a duty to allow the municipal law enforcement agency to respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or an unlawful assembly based on the availability of adequate equipment to its municipal law enforcement officers and relevant state and federal laws.

🚨 If the tentative budget of a municipality contains a funding reduction to the operating budget of the municipal law enforcement agency, the municipal attorney or a member of the governing body who objects to the funding reduction, may file an appeal to the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs within 30 days after the day the tentative budget is posted to the official website of the municipality.

🚨 If, during a riot, an object is thrown at certain emergency personnel including law enforcement officers, or if emergency personnel are struck, whether with an object or not, the presumption of non-imprisonment for a first offense of a crime of the third degree shall not apply, and a mandatory period of six months imprisonment shall apply.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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