Wildwood, a youthful shore city in New Jersey frequented by tourists, has tightened its curfew rules in an effort to be proactive about disruptive behaviors. Starting Aug. 2, no minors can be in the street or any public space without a guardian between midnight and 6 a.m. Previously, the youth curfew went into effect at 1 a.m. The city also moved up its beach curfew for everyone by an hour to 9 p.m. Violators could face community service or a fine of up to $1,000. Shore towns in New Jersey have rolled out numerous curfew measures this summer in response to rising complaints and concerns from local business owners and residents about unruly behavior. After years in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, teenagers looking to gather with their peers have been increasingly at odds with local residents and businesses, the Wall Street Journal reports. “One group of teens doing stupid things doesn’t mean all of us are doing stupid things,” Robert Yacovelli, 18, said after officers checked his ID and walked away. Yacovelli, who works on the pier as a lifeguard, said he prefers socializing outside rather than in the cramped beach staff quarters. City officials say the tweaked curfew isn’t in response to any serious issues, like large groups of minors drinking alcohol, shoplifting, or committing vandalism. “We are being proactive, not reactive,” said Mayor Pete Byron. Officials and businesses in shore towns have complained that Gov. Phil Murphy’s juvenile justice reforms, passed in 2021 aimed at keeping young people out of jail, have given teenagers more freedom to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana and have weakened police’s power to keep the disruptive behaviors at bay. It is a balancing act for local authorities, said Will Morey of Morey’s Piers, a main tourism attraction in Wildwood. “Part of the magic with the shore is the freedom that teenagers have when they’re down here running around and going to the beach and boardwalk…We don’t want to stifle that,” Morey said. “I do think that the curfew is just a way of saying we want you to have a good time, but we want there to be guard rails.” The curfew began after an unusually rowdy group of teenagers gathered over the Memorial Day weekend, Ocean City, N.J., in June implemented an 8 p.m. beach curfew for all ages and an 11 p.m. public space curfew for juveniles, plus a backpack ban on the boardwalk between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. Breaking curfew could result in a maximum $1,500 fine.
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