By MADDY VITALE
Concerns about rowdy teens, riders not obeying traffic and helmet laws both on bicycles or e-bikes and nuisance complaints were among topics discussed by Ocean City police officers and residents during “Coffee with Cops” on Sunday.
The atrium of the Ocean City Free Public Library in the Community Center was filled with residents and officers from the Community Policing Unit. They chatted while sipping coffee and eating bagels and cookies.
“E-bikes have been one of the biggest issues we have heard about,” Officer Jack Davis said while speaking with Ocean City residents.
Recently, police issued 24 warnings over two days to students in the intermediate school who were riding around without helmets on both electric and regular bikes, Davis said.
He emphasized that the police department will continue to be vigilant to get out the important message about helmet safety.
“We are definitely working on the helmet issue,” Davis said. “We are trying to get kids to ride safely.”
Coffee with Cops is a program designed to help officers and community members connect in an informal setting.
The library co-sponsored the event that brought people together in a hub of activity for residents and visitors to Ocean City.
Ocean City High School student Rob Malfitano chatted with Davis about several different topics.
Kathy Ridge, from Ocean City, spoke with Sgt. Chris Vivarelli about another topic of concern for locals for the last two summers — rowdy teens on the Boardwalk and downtown.
“There isn’t much the officers could do because of the laws. Their hands are tied in a lot of respects, but they are still out there doing community service to try and teach the kids to be respectful and responsible,” Ridge said. “It’s definitely nice to chat with the officers about my concerns.”
Ocean City Board of Education member Kevin Barnes attended the event with his daughter, Kendall.
“I absolutely love it. It really is a wonderful event with great community involvement,” Barnes said.
Ocean City resident Gary Rago spoke of how nice and casual the setting was.
“I think this is a great opportunity to interact with my community,” Rago said. “I spoke to Officer Mike Gray and asked him a lot of questions. He answered them all. You can tell he loves it here.”
Vivarelli said that the department was grateful to the library, especially Library Director Karen Mahar, for hosting the event.
“We work very closely with Karen Mahar, and she is always so happy to accommodate us,” Vivarelli noted, adding that the community center is an ideal setting for this type of event. “It is so exciting to see all of the people who came out today.”
Vivarelli spoke with Randi Scheck, from the Ocean City/Upper Township Rotary Club, about possibly partnering on different activities.
“The rotary does so many things with the community and it is nice to network with them to see how we can work together,” Vivarelli said.
Scheck added, “It is important to see where the rotary club can be of help and how we can help benefit the police department.”
Mahar said that the library was thrilled to host the event and that there will likely be more to come. She pointed out that the police department’s substation in the Community Center helps to keep everyone safe.
“This is a big event. My staff wanted the event to be here and we were thrilled with the turnout. It is evident that the community cares,” she said.
Mahar continued, “This is a great place to come and get to know the police. People could chat with officers about things that are important, but not emergency situations. It is a level of comfort to be able to meet with the officers face to face.”
For more information visit the Ocean City Police Department at https://www.ocnj.us/police/