CHIEF DEFENDS SKATE-LAW ENFORCEMENT

Police Chief Steve McCarthy says skateboarders have put taxpayers on the hook for “considerable” damage in two parks.  (Click to enlarge)

By DAN NATALE

After Red Bank police busted four minors and two adults for skateboarding in a park earlier this month, some locals wondered: don’t the cops have anything better to do?

Well, yes and no, says police Chief Steve McCarthy.

“I know it seems like we have much bigger fish to fry in Red Bank, and we do. We have serious crimes here,” he told redbankgreen in an interview this week. “But [illegal skateboarding] is an issue that has to be addressed.”

Skateboarding costs the town tens of thousands of dollars in damages to public property, particularly in Riverside Gardens Park and Marine Park, where damage has been “considerable,” McCarthy said.

Citing the “broken windows” theory of community policing, he said that it’s important for the police to focus on seemingly “frivolous” offenses because, left unaddressed, they can influence others to commit more serious crimes.

“If someone was standing on Monmouth Street throwing rocks at the windows of the borough building, you would expect us to take action,” McCarthy said. “It’s not that different.”

Connor Walsh, a 19-year-old from Long Branch, was among the six charged with skateboarding in Riverside Gardens Park last week. He said he was handcuffed and taken into the police station, where his mug shot was taken, and he was given a summons for skateboarding on municipal property. Walsh said that the policeman who gave him the ticket appeared reluctant, but bound by his duty as a police officer.

“I don’t think it’s necessary [to enforce the ordinance], but I can see their point,” Walsh told redbankgreen. “Instead of cracking down on a harmless thing, they should do work to make it so they don’t have to. There’s a ton of land that can be used for putting up a skatepark.”

The Community YMCA explored the prospect of a creating a skate park at its Maple Avenue health facility in 2000, but the project never got past the planning stages. That year, several ordinances were put into place that made skateboarding illegal in nearly all of downtown Red Bank.

McCarthy agrees that a skate park is the best place for skateboarders.

“I have a teenage son who earlier on skateboarded, and I took him to the skatepark in Long Branch,” he said. “ I would hope that people would do what I did with my son and take them to the appropriate place to do it, and not where they’re damaging public property where taxpayers in Red Bank have to foot the bill for.”

McCarthy, however also says understands the “anarchist” nature of skateboarders, and that they will probably skateboard where they want, regardless of the town’s intervention.

Although skateboarders have recently been getting some heat, municipal Court Clerk Fran Pastoriza said that she can only recall about 10 skateboarding summonses in her eight years working for the borough. McCarthy said offenders are usually given warnings, and that summonses are issued if a skateboarder is a habitual offender.

Taidgh Fitzpatrick, a skateboarder who often shows up at Riverside Gardens Park, says that local skateboarders are taking a break from skating there because of the recent arrests.