Celebration or rowdy crowd in Long Branch? Depends on who you ask
LONG BRANCH — Did police overreact to a large crowd at Pier Village on Saturday evening or were they preparing for the worst, not knowing exactly what was unfolding at the beachfront shopping and residential area?
A party promoted on social media drew "thousands of young people from all over the state," according to Long Branch Director of Public Safety Domingos Saldida in a written statement Sunday.
Saldida said there were four arrests for disorderly persons offenses and that no property damage had been reported to law enforcement.
On Monday, a manager at Stewart's Root Beer at Pier Village who identified himself only as "Danny," told New Jersey 101.5 that their restaurant was damaged by the crowd on Saturday and described the scene as "mayhem."
"The whole outside was damaged. They broke tables, umbrellas, fences," Danny said, adding that the damage was reported to police.
The restaurant manager said his employees voluntarily came in on Sunday to help clean up after the rowdy crowd, as seen in various social media video clips posted after Saturday.
"I was able to basically size up what we had and then went back into my storage and pulled out some more equipment," Danny said, adding that the damage was reported to police.
Ocean County Scanner News, which was first to report about the Stewart's damage, claimed that businesses were "destroyed" and that one had its window smashed, although New Jersey 101.5 was not able to verify this report and the businesses mentioned in the report could not be reached for comment.
Saldida on Monday afternoon did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information.
Chavonne Berry told the Asbury Park Press that the crowd was just a group of young adults dancing and enjoying themselves. On her Facebook page Berry said police couldn't explain what they were doing "wrong."
"I was in the thick of it! I was harassed. I was threatened with arrests. The shxt was sickening and the bully culture that’s in these departments is why I will forever feel like F**K THE POLICE," Berry wrote.
Visitors arrived by both train and car, and by 5 p.m. drinking and unruly behavior began, at which point police began working on getting the crowd to disperse, Saldida previously said.
"I want to thank all of our officers for their professional response in keeping both visitors and citizens of long Branch safe," she said.
It was a similar scene in Point Pleasant Beach a year ago, when six arrests were made amid a beachfront party, also promoted on social media, attracting thousands of young people.
Law enforcement veteran Al Della Fave, most recently the former spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, offered an explanation for the police response.
"You don't know what you have until you get to the scene and assess. It's almost like telling the fire department 'why are you going to bring fire trucks until you know there's a full-blown fire.' It doesn't work that way. You bring what you feel you'll need in terms of the numbers and then once on scene you make the assessment," Della Fave said.
At the same time, if there is damage and police show up unprepared to handle it they get criticism from property owners who say they were not properly protected, according to Della Fave.
"I see it as a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario," Della Fave said.
He also said law enforcement has no problem with people coming together to enjoy themselves but there have to be rules.
"Fun is one thing but damaging personal property and putting other individuals in fear is another thing and that can't be tolerated," Della Fave said.