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Wildwood approves backpack ban on boardwalk following unruly Memorial Day weekend crowds

N.J. officials discuss ways to make Jersey Shore safer after multiple incidents with unruly teens
N.J. officials discuss ways to make Jersey Shore safer after multiple incidents with unruly teens 02:21

WILDWOOD, N.J. (CBS) -- The City of Wildwood Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved a ban on backpacks and other large bags on its boardwalks and beaches, which takes effect immediately.

The ban includes all backpacks except diaper bags, medical equipment and small purses and is effective from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily.

Wildwood city leaders are trying to keep a repeat of what happened last month from happening again. Officials issued a state of emergency over Memorial Day weekend because of large unruly crowds. Beachgoer Timothy Blakeslee, of Wildwood, said he sometimes thinks twice about bringing his daughter to the beach.

"Yeah, it's unfortunate. It's surprising too. It seems to be kind of progressing as well," he said. 

The increased violence is why city leaders considered a backpack ban. They said some people are hiding drug paraphernalia and alcohol in the bags. However, Blakeslee was not optimistic a ban would work.

"They will figure out a way if they want to bring it on, so I don't know. I don't think it will make a change at all," Blakeslee said. 

Ebram Bishai, of Bayonne, New Jersey, thought a ban would improve safety but not by much.

"Maybe a little, because sometimes they still hide it in their underwear. But, I think it will slightly decrease the violence and alcoholic rates here," Bishai said. 

Beachgoer Chloe Meyers, of Philadelphia, believed a ban would improve safety.

"The pros being that there will not be as many fights and arguments that there are down here," Meyers said. 

However, she believed a ban would be unfair to all the other law-abiding beachgoers.

As for enforcement, Meyers had a wait-and-see outlook.

"I think it's going to be hard to put it into effect. But they can give it a shot, you can never know," Meyers said. 

"These kids have little to no respect for anyone"

Wildwood isn't the only spot down the Shore that's had issues with unruly crowds lately, and some state leaders said parents should be held responsible for the actions of their children.

Republican lawmakers and a group of New Jersey police chiefs talked about ways to keep the shore safe on Wednesday. 

"I would add that I think that the juveniles and the parents should be held accountable, and beyond that, I think the entire juvenile justice system needs to be reformed," Ocean City Police Chief Bill Campbell said. 

Some people on the boardwalk said they feel safe, despite the pushes by officials to make parts of the Jersey Shore safer, but they agreed that holding parents accountable might help. 

The backpack ban in Wildwood comes after a 15-year-old was stabbed on the boardwalk in Ocean City by another teen during Memorial Day weekend.

During the holiday weekend, Wildwood issued a state of emergency, citing numerous incidents of civil unrest.

"These kids have little to no respect for anyone," Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano said. "No respect for themselves, no respect for their friends and no respect for police, officials, adults — just a total lack of respect for any form of authority, and it's become an issue where we cannot enforce the laws."

Both Wildwood and Ocean City also have curfews in place to deter the unruly teens and large gatherings.

"The problem is we have juveniles who believe that they can't get in trouble for anything they do wrong," Ocean City Councilman Jody Levchuck said. 

CBS Philadelphia reached out to Gov. Phil Murphy's office for a response to Wednesday's meeting, and we were referred to the Attorney General's Office. We are awaiting a response.

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