BRICK – The township council voted last night to allow lifeguards to search coolers of Brick beachgoers without a warrant in order to enforce a prohibition on the consumption of alcohol at township beaches.
The ordinance amended the township code on parks and beaches, and in addition to routine changes included the following additional language:
“No person shall bring or consume any intoxicating liquours on the beachfront and parking lot. Lifeguards may conduct inspections of coolers and similar storage containers for prohibited alcoholic beverages to ensure compliance with this provision. Any person who refuses to allow such an inspection will not be allowed on the beach.”
– Brick Township Municipal Code, Chapter § 110-12
“Lately we’ve been seeing an increase in people bringing alcohol onto our beaches and causing disturbances,” claimed Councilwoman Andrea Zapcic, who spoke in favor of the ordinance.
Zapcic said that intoxicated individuals often became “combative” when interacting with lifeguards. She further claimed that of 23 police responses to the beaches in 2015, that 7 of those incidents were related to alcohol.
But Councilman James Fozman disagreed. “We have already 18 laws on our beaches,” remarked Fozman, the lone dissenter.
“We have enough to do than worrying about checking someone’s cooler,” he added. The ordinance will allow lifeguards to search the contents of coolers (and only coolers) at the gate to any one of Brick Township’s beaches without being subject to obtaining a warrant, as when law enforcement searches an individual or vehicle.
Alcohol was already prohibited at the beaches. Previously lifeguards had procedures for dealing with alcohol incidents on the beach, first by contacting their supervisor who would then speak with the individual consuming alcohol – and if that wasn’t successful, call the police department.
Councilman Fozman further claimed that since the ordinance only allows coolers to be searched, nothing is stopping a would-be alcohol consumer from bringing their booze in a backpack or other container not defined in the ordinance.
Mr. Fozman also disputed statistics cited by Ms. Zapcic, claiming that just three incidents were alcohol related – and the rest were disorderly persons incidents. “You’ve got 23 incidents, 16 of them did not involve alcohol,” he remarked.
“It doesn’t warrant it.”