2nd Lakewood Gathering In 24 Hours Broken Up: Prosecutor

LAKEWOOD, NJ — Two more summonses were issued Monday morning after authorities were called to disperse a crowd at a Madison Avenue conference center that violated Gov. Phil Murphy's ban on gatherings in the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said.

The incident happened less than 24 hours after a Lakewood couple was charged with child endangerment after authorities dispersed a gathering of nearly 50 people at a home on Alamitos Drive.

David Gluck, 42, and Abraham Haberfeld, 32, both of Lakewood, each were charged with maintaining a nuisance after 35 people were found inside the building at 401 Madison Ave., Billhimer said.

Gatherings of all kinds, including weddings, parties, celebrations, or other social events, were banned by Murphy when he issued a stay-at-home order March 21 in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. There have been 371 cases reported in Lakewood, according to figures released Sunday by the Ocean County Health Department.

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"We will continue to enforce Executive Order 107. Nothing short of 100 percent compliance will be tolerated," Billhimer said.

It was the fifth violation of the ban in Lakewood due to the coronavirus in a week. State officials, however, warned against targeting Lakewood specifically for issues with the ban.

When asked about Lakewood on Monday, Col. Patrick J. Callahan Superintendent said: "I don't think it would be fair to say (there are any) more (incidents) than any other town. I just think attention gets drawn to Lakewood and Ocean County."

Murphy also said "this is no time for blaming people and blaming communities" specifically, noting that Lakewood, as one of New Jersey's fastest-growing towns, should be monitored but there is "overwhelming compliance" in the community.

Billhimer said Lakewood police were called about 8:30 a.m., and it took several attempts by the officers to clear the building before those in attendance left.

Gluck is the building's owner; Haberfeld is its manager, Billhimer said.

As of Sunday afternoon, there were 13,386 positive tests for COVID-19 in New Jersey, and 161 people have died from it, according to the state health department. Read more: NJ Coronavirus Updates: Here's What You Need To Know

There have been 835 positive tests in Ocean County so far, as of Sunday’s report from the Ocean County Health Department. That includes 371 in Lakewood, 106 in Toms River, 81 in Brick, 77 in Jackson, 45 in Berkeley, 33 in Manchester, 22 in Point Pleasant, 18 in Lacey, 20 in Barnegat, 11 in Stafford, eight in South Toms River, seven in Little Egg Harbor, seven in Beachwood, four in Plumsted, four in Seaside Heights, four in Waretown, three in Point Pleasant Beach, two in Long Beach Township, two in Barnegat Light, two in Ship Bottom, and one each in Bay Head, Beach Haven, Island Heights, Lakehurst, Lavallette, Seaside Park, and Surf City. A case reported in Ocean Gate in Saturday’s statistics was removed from Sunday’s report.

There have been a string of incidents in Lakewood where there have been violations of Murphy's executive orders on social distancing during the outbreak, and the incidents continue to fuel anger in neighboring communities.

On March 17, authorities broke up two weddings in Lakewood that exceeded 50 people each, which was the limit Murphy initially put in place. On March 19, Lakewood police issued summonses to two men, one for a wedding and one for a large gathering, and worked to shut down a yeshiva that remained open in spite of Murphy's orders to close all schools in the state. Read more: Occupied Lakewood Yeshiva, Weddings Amid Coronavirus Spark Anger

A fourth wedding and another gathering were broken up on March 24, after Murphy issued his stay-at-home order, and two more summonses issued. Read more: 2 More Lakewood Gatherings Broken Up Amid Coronavirus Shutdown

And a fifth wedding was disrupted on March 26 when Lakewood police discovered tents in a back yard while responding to a motor vehicle crash. Read more: 5th Lakewood Wedding Halted, Broke Coronavirus Gathering Ban: PD

Murphy and Callahan and Lakewood Police Chief Gregory Meyer have said there is nearly 100 percent compliance with the order, but the two incidents Sunday and Monday fueled social media demands for stronger action beyond summonses, including requests for a National Guard presence.

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This article originally appeared on the Lakewood Patch