There's a 10 p.m. curfew for teens in Toms River's beach areas. Why is it needed?

TOMS RIVER -- A beach area curfew for those 17 and under will go back into effect tonight at 10 p.m., as township officials attempt to prevent "pop-up" parties and large gatherings of juveniles.

The curfew will be in place through 12 a.m. Sept. 5 in Toms River's barrier island communities, including Ortley Beach and the northern beaches like Chadwick Beach and the Ocean beaches, police Chief Mitch Little said. Juveniles 17 and under are barred from being out on the streets without an adult from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little.

There are exceptions: kids doing errands for a parent or guardian and those going back and forth to jobs are exempt from the curfew. Also exempted are teens going to and from religious gatherings, educational events or private functions.

The township put a similar curfew in place last year following numerous complaints by beachfront residents about rowdy groups of teens gathering on the beach and in nearby streets late at night. On occasion, kids on bicycles and on foot blocked Route 35, and residents complained of underage drinking, vandalism and marijuana use.

“We don’t want to have a repeat of the incidences we had during previous summer seasons, “ Mayor Hill said. “Last year, before we implemented the curfew, we had a few 'pop-up parties' occur with large crowds of young people disturbing the peace in Ortley Beach.  We are looking to prevent that from happening again this year.”

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Toms River, the county seat of Ocean County, is a waterfront community with a downtown section offering residents and visitors a wide variety of activities and locations to enjoy life. Ortley Beach lifeguards keep watch over beachgoers visiting the barrier island section of town.                                                       Toms River, NJThursday, August 19, 2021

Paul Jeffrey, an Ortley Beach resident who is vice president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association, thanked Chief Little for instituting the curfew.

"Thank you, chief, for the curfew. We’d like a more permanent solution," Jeffrey said. He said last year, when kids were "chased off the beach," they "went to (Route) 35," creating havoc for local businesses like Barnacle Bill's Arcade and Miniature Golf and the Starlight Motel.

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Teens who violate the curfew will be given two warnings to disburse before being detained, at which time their parent, guardian or adult caretaker will be contacted. .  Adults, including employers, who allow or encourage juveniles to violate the curfew will be subject to summons and fines, according to the township.

Councilman Justin Lamb, who represents the barrier island area, again urged the township council to adopt a "beach curfew" similar to the one in place in neighboring Lavallette. Lamb, a police sergeant in Lavallette, said in that borough, no one is permitted on the beach from midnight to 5 a.m., with an exception for fishermen.

"I think there is a problem when you have a beach ordinance like that in Lavallette and you don't have one in Ortley," Lamb said.

Little said he would be interested in reviewing such an ordinance for possible future adoption.

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Police and township officials have complained that new directives released by the state Attorney General's Office last year, in connection with marijuana decriminalization, have made it more difficult for police to deal with rowdy teenagers.

Law enforcement officials have been critical of the directives related to decriminalization, focusing on provisions that prohibit police from notifying a parent or guardian if a person under 18 is caught with marijuana or alcohol on the first offense, and expose police officers to potential criminal liability if they search an underage person for either.

Jean Mikle covers Toms River and several other Ocean County towns, and has been writing about local government and politics at the Jersey Shore for nearly 39 years. A finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in public service, she's also passionate about the Shore's storied music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle,

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Toms River's beachfront has curfew for teens this summer