By Steve Plunkett
Manalapan police are confident patrolling the Point but feel unequipped to fight crime on the ocean.
The “threat profile” in the ocean zone has changed over the years, Town Manager Linda Stumpf and Police Chief Carmen Mattox told town commissioners May 22, citing the increased popularity of Bird Island and the public beaches bordering Manalapan and seven boat burglaries since 2009.
“It is beyond our ability to control/monitor these issues with the current staffing and resources. We are not able to provide the presence that is needed,” they reported.
But town police can meet “all of the security needs and concerns of the residents” on the Point, Stumpf and Maddox said.
Commissioners scheduled a workshop June 25 to go over the report, which Stumpf said she would mail to residents ahead of time.
The town is evaluating a proposal from the Sheriff’s Office to provide police services for $1.17 million. Manalapan currently budgets $1.4 million for the Police Department but officers and dispatchers have been working without a contract for two years.
Mayor Basil Diamond urged commissioners and residents to review the facts before reaching a conclusion.
“What bothered me, before we had this meeting and before we had this report, communications by some commissioners to residents and making public announcements about their preferences and positions before we had a final report — I think we all need to keep an open mind,” Diamond said. Vice Mayor Donald Brennan passed back unopened a letter he had received from Commissioner Howard Roder. “Scratch me from your distribution list,” he said.
Roder added the letter to the public record of the meeting. “If we believe we need better policing, let’s focus on reforming our department,” it said. “But solely for the sake of amorphous savings, let’s not embark on a course that in the end will be detrimental and irreversible to Manalapan.”
Stumpf and Mattox’s report lists six options:
- Contract with the Sheriff’s Office.
- Enhance the current department with a marine unit (estimated at $175,000 the first year) and a beach patrol (from $83,000 for a 10-hour shift five days a week to $302,000 for round-the-clock coverage).
- Use a private security agency for a fully staffed marine unit ($236,000), beach patrol ($182,000) and gatehouse security on the Point ($70,000 for 12 hours a day, $149,000 for 24/7).
- Contract with the Sheriff’s Office for a beach unit and marine patrol. A quote has been requested.
- Contract with the sheriff for police and dispatch services and with a private agency for gatehouse security for a total of $1.3 million.
- Install security cameras along the coastline. The report calls them “cost prohibitive.”
The report includes police logs for the past three years. Criminal events on the ocean increased from 2,190 in 2009 to 2,366 last year, it says, and decreased on the Point from 310 three years ago to 130 last year.
It also notes that 2,174 vehicles travel State Road A1A on an average day and 688 go on Lands End Road. “The increased traffic on A1A exposes its residents to additional concerns for security and safety,” the report says.
The workshop on the police proposals begins at 10 a.m. June 25 at Town Hall.
In other business, commissioners awarded a $65,000 contract to repair or replace sidewalks on the Point and asked the town attorney to draw up ordinances prohibiting yard sales and the parking of vehicles on front lawns, requiring dog owners to pick up after their pets and putting time limits on when to put out and take in trash receptacles. Ú