FIREWORKS CROWD PROMPTS POLICE REVIEW

kaboom-711Friday night’s crowd overtook the parking lot of the 7-11 at Maple Avenue and West Front Street, among other viewing spots.

Red Bank police and other officials plan a debriefing this week to review the handling of Kaboom Fireworks on the Navesink security after large crowds put emergency personnel on their heels Friday night.

Of particular concern was a post-event crush of revelers at the train station, where many of the 20 arrests made that night occurred, said Capt. Steve McCarthy. Nearly all the arrests were for disorderly behavior.

Also on the table is what might be done about the throngs of visitors who annually crowd the West Front Street entrance to Riverside Gardens Park.

At this morning’s borough special events committee critique of the fireworks show, Capt. Darren McConnell said the KaBoom crowd was so thick opposite the park that an emergency might have resulted in injuries or even a fatality.

“It was to the point of being unsafe,” he said. “It was the worst I’ve seen in 20 years.”

Details of the arrests were not yet available, but officials said the number outstripped those of past years. Among those busted were at least one participant in a fight on Chestnut Street; a juvenile on alcohol possession charges; and several cases of public intoxication, said McCarthy.

Vehicular traffic in and out of town was believed to have been slightly lighter than last year, though post-fireworks traffic jams still took nearly two hours to dissipate.

But of particular concern to police was the number of out-of-towners who arrived by train — a mode of transportation that event planners promoted as a way for visitors to avoid traffic hassles. Though it was otherwise operating on a holiday schedule, New Jersey Transit put on extra trains to and from Red Bank, and provided a bolstered contingent of transit cops.

By one estimate, some 10,000 visitors arrived by rail, many of them less than an hour before the start of the 9:15 fireworks.

“The crowd came later this year, but when they came, they came with a vengeance,” McConnell said.

Police bike patrols working West Front between Maple Avenue and Broad Street had to put away their bikes because the crowd grew too dense to navigate, he said. And in that vicinity was one particularly unruly group of revelers, some of whom were arrested.

The crowds also impeded first aid responses to some 200 calls that night, many of them involving intoxication, and slowed Middletown firefighters who responded to an elevator alarm at the Hovnanian Enterprises headquarters shortly before 9p.

After the fireworks, several thousand visitors hit the station simultaneously, many of them needing to purchase tickets from the manned window inside the station or from the two ticket-dispensing machines outside. Eventually, NJ Transit stopped selling tickets and spread the word that rides would be free, as they had been in the past.

“They quickly gave up, because the crowd was getting rowdy,” McConnell said.

Even with a contingent of NJ Transit police, who made some arrests themselves, “we were still outnumbered” in terms of the ability to control the crowd, McConnell said.

McConnell said one suggestion he’ll make at this week’s review is that NJ Transit not bring extra carloads of visitors to town.

“This year, we were over capacity,” he said.

“We’ll look at what worked and what didn’t,” McCarthy said of the closed-door meeting, scheduled for Wednesday.