By Jay Cook
RED BANK – The borough has had enough with vandalism.
Local police apprehended two juveniles last week who allegedly destroyed an estimated $20,000 worth of Marine Park property over the past two months, and now Mayor Pasquale Menna said the borough plans to seek financial restitution in civil court. It would be the first time Red Bank has used this approach.
On Feb. 7, Red Bank Police arrested two Middletown residents, 17- and 16-years-old, on criminal mischief charges. Red Bank Police Chief Darren McConnell said they vandalized Marine Park on five separate occasions from about Jan. 15 to Feb. 7.
The juveniles, whose names were not made public, destroyed nine electric and water hookup stanchions by kicking and pushing them over “with a decent amount of force,” McConnell told The Two River Times. The stanchions are used to service boats in the borough-operated marina there.
In response, Menna said he asked borough attorney Gregory J. Cannon “to look into bringing a civil action against the guardians or parents of these people, or their homeowner’s insurance policy, for a failure to supervise and negligent supervision of the people under their care.”
The mayor said it will be the first time Red Bank’s government has gone after vandals in court.
Menna said the suit would be akin to Dram Shop Act cases where liquor stores or other commercial establishments are held accountable for negligently distributing alcohol. In this case, he views the juveniles’ parents accountable for not watching their children.
“The public can’t be continuously hit by the carelessness and negligence of parental supervision in our parks,” the mayor told The Two River Times. “And all of these, by the way, are out-of-towners, and it happens repeatedly. So, we’re going to put them on notice.”
McConnell said the juveniles were caught in the act Wednesday night after a plain-clothes officer staking out Marine Park witnessed the two individuals vandalizing one of the few remaining stanchions. Red Bank police were first alerted by borough public works employees.
The chief said the case will be sent up to Monmouth County’s family court where it would be adjudicated.
Red Bank is unique in that it doesn’t close its public parks from dusk to dawn, like other towns and the county does. Menna said situations like this make the borough question that policy, yet he doesn’t want a few to take away the pleasure of many.
“It’s a fine line. We want to be open, we want people to enjoy the natural beauty of the river,” he said. “The question is, do you proof everybody walking into the park? Now, that’s impossible to do.”
This isn’t the first time Red Bank parks have been vandalized. McConnell said spray paint or magic marker graffiti is commonly found around town.
“The real message is just to be respectful of public property,” McConnell said. “We all spend a lot of taxpayer money on making the parks nice and we try to maintain them that way.”
In 2014, the borough financed a $190,000 renovation at Riverside Gardens Park for a number of improvements, one of which was repairing cement work in the park after continuous skateboarding destroyed it. Menna also said there was an instance at the park where vandals removed the decorative ironwork that barriers the riverside lookout and tossed it into the river.
“At some point there has to be some degree of parental responsibility and grown-ups in the room,” Menna said.
Marine Park is located at the foot of Wharf Avenue, alongside and overlooking the Navesink River. It’s a popular summertime spot for locals who go crabbing or fishing on its pier. The borough-operated marina does not have boats docked in the winter, and the slips are filled via a lottery system. The park is bordered by two private businesses, Irwin Marine and the Monmouth Boat Club.
This article was first published in the Feb. 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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