BRICK – Just after the recent shooting incident that took place near Brick High School (see The Brick Times November 2 and November 9, 2019), residents asked for increased security measures in town.
Mayor John G. Ducey released a statement during a recent Township Council meeting that includes measures that have been taken by the township over the past five years designed to protect the community.
A “Responsible Landlord ordinance” imposes penalties towards “slum landlords,” many of whom own units in high crime multi-family housing developments in Brick, he said.
The ordinance holds landlords responsible for their tenant’s criminal behavior by imposing fines on them when their tenants violate criminal or municipal laws more than twice in a two-year period.
During public comment at the November 6 council meeting, Melinda Murray of Forge Pond Road asked if the ordinance could be “tightened up…after everything that went on with the school.”
She asked if the ordinance would apply to someone who is renting an apartment and has other people living with them who are not on the lease.
“We’re getting more and more people buying, and companies buying, our condominiums and our smaller homes and little bungalows, and they’re renting them out, and they become slumlords,” Murray said.
She asked the governing body if the ordinance has been enforced and utilized.
Mayor John G. Ducey said the ordinance is similar to “animal house” ordinances in other towns, like Belmar.
“But we’re not a beach town, as far as rentals, so we had to call it the Responsible Landlord Ordinance,” he explained.
If there are two convictions at the property, even if the criminal behavior is committed by a stranger who is there, the landlord would go before a hearing officer who would levy a fine upon the landlord, Ducey said.
“So even if the landlord had nothing to do with it, and there’s two arrests, they get a fine as much as $5,000,” the mayor said.
Murray asked if there was a list of convictions available, and she asked where the money goes that is collected as fines.
Township Attorney Scott W. Kenneally said the fines go into the township’s general fund. He said the ordinance is strong, but asked the public to help in bringing violations to the attention of the administration.
“We try to keep track of it, but we don’t always know which property it’s in,” he said. He urged people to bring information to the township so they can go through the procedure that could lead to prosecution.
The attorney said he had prosecuted someone who owned a house off of Mantoloking Road “that was a real problem, wreaking havoc in the neighborhood.”
The landlord – not the tenant – was fined, and even though the landlord was not happy about being prosecuted, convicted and fined, the end result was that the tenant was evicted. There has not been a problem with that property since, Kenneally added.
Also during public comment, a Patriot Avenue resident asked about enhancing school security.
He said he has been a police officer in Monmouth County for 18 years, and has a young daughter who attends Lanes Mill School.
“I can kind of understand the issues we are faced with today,” he said. “I know [the shooting] was an isolated incident, and I’m privy to some of the facts and circumstances that took place there, but we were talking about hiring Class 3 police officers in the school, and I don’t know if there’s been any progress made on that yet.”
Township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin said the police have a “significant presence” in the schools.
“It is part of their rotation every day…to get out of their vehicles and walk through the schools. It’s part of what they’re doing to be present in the moment, and we’ll continue to do that until we work out how the Special 3’s would work,” she said.
The governing body is willing to go forward with an ordinance that would establish the use of the Special 3 officers, and the PBA has agreed to do a sidebar agreement that they would have no opposition to the idea, Bergin said.
“We have to continue to work with the school district about how those officers would be paid,” she said.
The resident said he understands the current measures that are being taken, but said he knows the patrol officers can’t dedicate the time every day.
“They get calls, they’re there in the morning, a call comes in and they have to leave,” he said. “There’s openings every single day.”
He said that when the shooting happened, he went to Lanes Mill School and spoke to one of the security guards there, who is responsible for all the elementary schools.
“One guy has to share his time between all the elementary schools, and I don’t understand,” he said.
He said he knows it’s up to the Board of Education to hire the officers, but said the recent incident is a wake-up call.
“Look at all the towns around us – every single one of them has police officers in the schools, full-time,” he said. “We’re the only town that doesn’t do it.”
Bergin said the administration is trying to work with the Board of Education to see if the additional officers could be hired “in a way that it is affordable for all of us…it’s a big lift, and it’s not something we had budgeted for…we have to continue to work together with the school board to make that happen.”