Move over Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, The Jersey Shore has become what most think of when New Jersey comes to mind. The MTV show has portrayed all the best and worst in New Jersey and Seaside Heights. While watching that show, an audience looking for low-brow entertainment can be treated to bar fights, assaults, excessive drinking and essentially 30-year-old adolescent behavior wrapped around the Seaside Heights shore scene.

When that show hit Seaside for its two months of filming, usually during the peak summer months, it attracted a slew of spectators and wannabes. Its antics and the show’s crew had to be monitored and kept reasonably safe. This responsibility fell to the local police department, which expended considerable time and manpower to do just that and keep Seaside Heights on the map.

Beyond Television

On a stretch of sand along the Jersey Shore that is 1-mile long and .5-mile wide, Seaside Heights, N.J., is known for its beach, boardwalk and summer fun activities. One of the many shore towns, Seaside Heights is located in Ocean County, and during the off-peak months it has a population of approximately 3,000 residents. Once Memorial Day hits and through the peak summer months, the population skyrockets to approximately 65,000 people, many of whom fall into the 18-to-21 age bracket. In addition to New Jersey visitors, Seaside’s vacationers come from surrounding New York and Pennsylvania, an easy drive for those residents. As Chief Tommy Boyd told me, “Once Memorial Day hits, we get packed, and it stays like that through the entire summer.”

Chief Tommy Boyd would know. He grew up in Seaside Heights. The chief has 28 years with the department and rose through the ranks from patrol officer to chief. As he told me, “During the four days of Memorial Day weekend, we will average around 400 arrests, or 100 arrests per day, with charges ranging from aggravated assault to drunk and disorderly conduct. The summer is always a busy time for us.”

Boardwalk Enforcers

For a small town, Chief Boyd has built a full-spectrum, fully-resourced department that keeps the peace in a town that has been credited for giving many adolescents their first shore experience.

Chief Boyd said, “My department has 43 full-time police officers that work year-round. Those officers are divided into patrol and detective sections. The patrol section is broken down further into a Boardwalk sector and a West End sector, which has most of our residents. There are two lieutenants and four sergeants that supervise the patrol section.”

The chief continued, “Our detective section has one detective supervisor and five detectives, one of which is assigned to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and another assigned to the DEA Drug Task Force. On average, the department handles about 2,600 in custody arrests per year and thousands of calls for assistance. Despite the size, we are a very busy department.”

Over the years, Chief Boyd has seen the department grow and change from a small shore town department to a full-service professional police force. “We recently purchased 50 GLOCK 27s for our patrol officers and eight GLOCK 23s for our detectives due to their reliability and stopping power,” said Chief Boyd.

To respond to a tactical threat or a potential active shooter, the chief saw the need and purchased a Level IIIA ballistic shield as well. “In these times, you have to be ready, and since we don’t have an active tactical team, the light weight and ease of use of our ballistic shield was a natural choice for our officers. They can easily use it and deploy it to address a real threat.”

Additionally, Chief Boyd said, “We have some breaching gear and are looking into the purchase of some more, specifically the Jersey Tactical CLAW. As an all-in one breaching tool, it’s a good match for our department.”

To respond to all these calls, Seaside Heights Police Department has a fleet of vehicles, including Ford Crown Victorias equipped with Mobile Data Terminals (MDT). To get onto the beach, six Dodge SUVs and four Ford Explorers are ready to respond. For the boardwalk, the chief said, “We purchased a Smart car and have four ATVs for our patrols.”

To supplement beach access, the department also recently purchased 20 police bikes from Jersey Shore Cycling. “This will enable us to have a lower profile but faster response to situations on the boardwalk and beach, which tend to be the hub of our activities during the summer months,” said Chief Boyd.

Safe Shore

When MTV approached Seaside Heights for the show, one thing was certain: no one realized what would happen. In addition to renting the Jersey Shore house and providing lodging and food for the crew, the producers asked about security and Seaside Heights PD responded.

According to Chief Boyd, “The show paid about $250,000 per filming for security. Our officers worked in an off-duty capacity with the blessing of the department in order to provide 24/7 security for the show’s cast and crew.

“The officers were not only there for security but also at times needed to protect the cast and crew from assaults by other people who were watching the filming. We saw regular people go up and try to provoke a fight or an argument with the cast or crew. The officers were there to prevent or react to that.
“My officers were also told that even while off-duty and working for the show, they were there to enforce the law, which resulted in our officers arresting the cast members ‘Snooki’ and ‘Ronnie’ for disorderly conduct,” said the chief. “Those arrests were processed like any other and both were found guilty. Snooki had to perform her community service at my department.

“We kept the Shore cast safe, and we kept Seaside Heights safe from their antics,” said the chief.

Seaside Heights has always had a great beach scene and nightlife, which a small and professional police department keeps in check on a regular basis. Seaside Heights will always be synonymous with the Jersey Shore, and now that show will always be with Seaside.

As the director of the borough’s business improvement district said in 2010, “We can’t even calculate the economic benefit to Seaside Heights from the presence of the show”—and that show owes its safety to the officers of the Seaside Heights Police Department.

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