At its first work session of the month, Haddonfield’s board of commissioners discussed possible avenues to curb the spate of incidents with young bike-riders in the borough, including helmet-wearing enforcement as well as their impact on businesses along Kings Highway.
Since issuing its public advisory last spring, the Haddonfield Police Department has been active in issuing citations to young riders who are not wearing required safety equipment, and also has been active in reminding them to walk their bikes along sidewalks on both sides of the main thoroughfare.
However, a spike in the number of incidents where groups of middle-school-aged riders have descended upon the borough to congregate on corners, weave in and out of traffic on major roadways and among pedestrians has necessitated more pressing solutions.
“Understandably, the merchants are very agitated by the kids, and they feel that there’s a negative impact on their businesses. And because it’s a recurring thing, it’s not one of those problems that stops 100 percent,” said Mayor Neal Rochford.
Commissioner for Public Safety Colleen Bianco Bezich acknowledged that the issues are due to different groups of young persons and arise for different reasons.
“It’s not just the bikes. It’s the screaming and cursing, and the mass quantity that are showing up. There was an incident last weekend that involved an altercation with freshmen from Haddonfield. I know because one of my neighbors was involved in it,” she revealed.
“And the other problem is, one of the retailers said the middle schoolers are playing wall ball off her glass windows, and of course, her windows could be shattered.”
Rochford said that, although the borough has allotted overtime for patrols, business owners in the downtown core have called for increased vigilance — both from the borough police as well as its auxiliary force — seven days a week. But as Bezich stated, it’s not a realistic idea on several fronts.
“We basically made it clear to them that, budgetarily, and from a volunteer perspective, there’s no way we can get a guarantee constant presence of police or volunteers in the time frames they’re looking at,” she said.
Commissioner Jeffrey Kasko recalled previous positive reinforcement incentives for adhering to the law, but acknowledged that stemming the tide will be tough.
“We need parental and student education and awareness on this, how absolutely stupid and dangerous it is to do what those kids do on the street and on the sidewalk. We can only control Haddonfield and I think a lot of these kids are not from here. How can we control what Haddon Township or any surrounding town does, or how they’re educating kids or how their parents are educating them?” he wondered.
Rochford also floated the idea of these merchants working with the borough on an arrangement where private security would be involved. Bezich added that she requested that merchants consider security measures within their own operating budgets, and asked if any owners could either step up themselves or offer contacts for the same.
Bezich mentioned that she, Police Chief Jason Cutler and Lt. Stephen Camiscioli discussed the creation of a “security angle” with the Partnership for Haddonfield board some time in the near future. She also wanted to step up efforts at the middle school in particular to work out an incentive program for good behavior.
“It is just an unfortunate sign of the times. Kids don’t care. They don’t listen, they don’t get direction from home, it’s everything on here (on their phones). So it’s cool to do that kind of stuff,” Kasko concluded.
In other news:
- As previously confirmed by the Haddonfield Board of Education at its February public session, Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough affirmed the long-anticipated land swap between the borough and the Board of Education was to take place on Tuesday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. inside Borough Hall. During the meeting, McCullough and Borough Solicitor Mario Iavicoli discussed language alterations in an easement regarding land use for the future owners of Boxwood and Lullworth Halls.
- Commissioners agreed that no decision on an appointment for borough engineer should be made until a meeting is rescheduled with the residents of Concord Drive regarding Remington & Vernick’s initial study of the June floods and Princeton Hydro’s analysis of that report.
- The commissioners discussed and concurred on the future appointment of Kevin Glover to the Human Relations Commission.