The sidewalks and crosswalks were thick with crowds sauntering to the bars, the clubs, the boardwalk.
It was 11 p.m. in Seaside Heights, Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. One day was still left to go, until the first big tourist weekend — a three-day weekend — was over, its end marked by an exodus of cars lining Route 37 westbound.
Until then, the crowds were here, in a resort town of Ferris wheels, games of chance, cheese steaks, pitchers of beer, an ocean.
At that time, the Boulevard traffic was at a standstill. Streetside parking was filled from Bay Boulevard to Ocean Terrace. Crowds ignored green light and red light and crosswalk, walking en masse between cars stuck in traffic to their respective destinations.
Others weren’t walking at all, instead waiting in line to have IDs checked at places like Hemingway’s, where spotlights shine into the night sky.
Cars filled with youth inch north and south on the Boulevard. Music blasting from car windows were competing with the music spilling out of open doors of bars and clubs, and competing with the yelled conversation of clusters of pedestrians. They were competing with a car horn or the siren of an emergency response vehicle.
It was 79 degrees at 11:30 p.m. The cover charge at Hemingway’s kicked in 90 minutes earlier. At this hour, there were no families in sight. The Seaside Heights visitor at 11:30 p.m. was twenty-something and out with friends.
The previous weekend, during the Seaside Music Festival, the line was around the block at the Bamboo Bar. But though there were crowds back then, the crowds did not compare to the large number of visitors for Memorial Day weekend, the start of a tourism season that brought in nearly $4 billion last year to all of Ocean County.
The weather for Memorial Day weekend ended with a forecasted 88 degrees, packing beaches and ushering in robust sales for tourism businesses after a mild winter.
Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari has said that Ocean County, which generated $3.957 billion in tourism revenues in 2011, would have reached the $4 billion mark last year had it not been for Hurricane Irene.
In Seaside Heights, the 3,000 residents who live year-round in the borough equal one-tenth of the average 30,000 daily overnight stays in the summer, borough officials have said.
Not that you have to sleep while you’re there. The last drinks are poured at 3 a.m. in Seaside bars in the Fridays and Saturdays of summer, and you have until 4 a.m. to finish drinking them before the bars close. At noon, most bars have already opened for the day. At 7 a.m., Bar Riggers opens.
There’s 22 liquor licenses in the borough. It’s $8 for a pitcher of beer at Captain Hook’s. There’s $2 pints at Bar Riggers. Order a $1.50 lite beer at Beachcomber.
The beats of Pitbull’s latest dance track hang over the tightly packed dance floor of Hemingway’s. Shorty Long and The Jersey Horns finish another rousing set of cover songs at a packed Beachcomber Saturday night, crowds dancing the night away. There’s fun to be had.
But the holiday weekend is not without incident.
Four minutes after midnight Monday, a 21 year-old man police said was intoxicated fell off the roof of a Franklin Avenue home.
Sunday night, police stand on the corner of Boulevard and Hamilton. There's officers patrolling in Seaside Heights police cars or bicycles.
The night before, Saturday, had Seaside Heights police responding to crowds, and calling for additional officers from nearby towns. Mutual aid from Toms River assisted with crowd control, said Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy.
Three officers headed over the bridge from Toms River into Seaside Heights to assist on Saturday, Mastronardy said.
“They assisted just on Saturday night. Sunday, Monday no problems,” Mastronardy said. “They just head over to assist, with crowd assist.”
Large crowds remained on the boardwalk after businesses closed at 3 a.m. At that hour, Seaside Heights ordinance requires businesses to close for the day.
Seaside Heights Detective Steve Korman said that Saturday, around 3 a.m., police responded to a report of an assault but found an intoxicated male who required medical transport for injuries due to a fall.
“The boardwalk begins to shut down at 3 a.m., we did not shut down the boardwalk down due to fights,” Korman said.
The borough has already seen violent crime this tourist season, when , a verbal argument between guests at a Seaside Heights hotel escalated into a physical assault, with one man stabbed in the abdomen.
Memorial Day and the weekend prior that year were also marked by high-profile incidents. A reported large fight on the boardwalk ended with a stabbing victim being airlifted out of Seaside Heights after 8 p.m. on Memorial Day.
The incident was reported at Sheridan Avenue and the Seaside Heights boardwalk, with reports of a large fight, and multiple police units dispatched to a victim stabbed in the chest. On May 20, 2011, a Point Pleasant man was allegedly stabbed in the back after a Seaside Heights man he had a verbal confrontation with threw a knife at him. That incident also occurred on the Boardwalk near Marathon Steaks at the Sheridan Avenue block.
The high profile incidents are out of a borough that has more eyes watching it, thanks to MTV’s Jersey Shore filming multiple seasons in and around Seaside Heights. Mike Loundy, a member of the Seaside Business Improvement District and the MTV liaison for Seaside Heights said Seaside Height’s revenue was up 20 percent after the first season aired.
But is crime increasing on par with the revenue?
The Uniform Crime Report shows 36 assaults reported in 2010, up from 25 in 2009. However it was 2006 when 74 assaults were reported — the largest number between 2001 and 2010 in Seaside Heights.
In addition to assaults, from 2009 to 2010 the categories of burglary, theft, robberies and auto theft also increased. At 244 incidents reported, 2010 had the highest number of thefts among the years of 2001 to 2010.
Though there was an increase in reported crime between 2009 and 2010, it wasn't the year with the most incidents. In particular 2002 had a high number of incidents reported, compared with other years. (Click here for City Data's stats on Seaside Heights crime between 2001 to 2010)
In 2002, there were 228 thefts, four sexual assaults, 16 robberies, 62 assaults, 105 burglaries and 35 auto thefts.
In 2010, there were 244 thefts, one sexual assault, 11 robberies, 36 assaults, 63 burglaries and 15 auto thefts.
Whether crime is up or down, whether the bar has a cover charge or $8 pitchers, or whether it’s Memorial Day or Valentine’s Day, Seaside Heights continues to market itself as a tourist resort offering both “family fun” and “exciting nightlife,” to quote a produced by the Seaside Heights Business Improvement District.
On Monday at 9 p.m., those tourists headed west out of the borough, over a repainted Route 37 bridge, through Toms River, and onto the parkway, stalling traffic in the right lane from Hooper Avenue to the Garden State Parkway entrance.