How Ocean County Police Departments are preparing for the summer
This won't be a normal, typical summer in Ocean County as much as we wish it would be and as beaches and boardwalks reopen there will be restrictions and rules to follow.
Police Departments across Ocean County are developing safety plans to reopen beaches and boardwalks and awaiting guidance from the state on which regulations will be in play this summer so they can determine what will further be required of them.
"As the summer of 2020 approaches every municipality, every Police Chief is working together to figure out that game-plan," Ocean County Police Chiefs Association President and Harvey Cedars Police Chief Robert Burnaford tells WOBM News. "It's going to be a different summer than we're used to for sure but it's a challenge that we will all face and overcome."
Chief Burnaford says as each Police Chief in Ocean County sets the plan for their towns, they'll need your help in making sure there's compliance.
"It's going to be a very clear partnership between law enforcement and the community," Burnaford said. "There's going to be some challenges and non-compliance issues that we will have to overcome but again between proper planning and the cooperation of the general public we will deal with every issue as it comes along."
One of the concerns for Bay Head Police Chief William Hoffman is people coming to the Jersey Shore thinking that this is just another summer.
"Obviously it's not going to be that way, we're going to have to have some changes with social distancing and hopefully people will understand that," Hoffman tells WOBM News. "I think the biggest concern though is going to be the social distancing and people understanding that big parties aren't going to be allowed like they usually are in the summer as well as big barbecues and big groups on the beaches. They're going to have to separate."
Chief Hoffman feels that as people continue to hear the social distancing message, they'll adjust to the new normal this summer.
Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little says they will address any compliance issues in Ortley Beach but within reason.
"If we see issues, we're obviously going to deal with them. We don't want to be known as the 'Compliance Police' because we do get calls about somebody standing too close to somebody else, somebody not having a mask on going into a supermarket, etc. and we handle them the best we can but we can't be everywhere all the time and we can't just have officers doing just that," Little told WOBM News. "We will deal with compliance issues as they come up but as far as anything extra, we're not going to be going overboard on any of this."
Ocean County Police Departments are developing plans to ensure not just compliance with regulations on the beaches and boardwalks this summer but overall safety as well.
Chief Little says their normal call volume has dropped during the pandemic but says calls are starting to go back up with more people outside including for overdoses and drug use, people calling in with depression issues and domestic violence which is at the same rate it was this time last year.
"As those numbers start growing as far as our call volume, we're going to start putting more officers on the road," Little said.
He has been adjusting the officers schedules recently to limit face-to-face interaction and practice social distancing.
"Unfortunately with the nature of our job, sometimes we're going to obviously arrest somebody and we're going to be right on top of people," Little said. "We're very fortunate though that out of about 225 employees of the police department, we're 100-percent Covid-Free and our families are Covid-Free, so everybody is doing what they need to do. The public has been very cooperative as well."