Toms River, NJ – The culture clash continues in the Lakewood area, with officials in both neighboring Jackson and Toms River telling members of the Lakewood citizens patrol that their presence is unwelcome.
Last week, Toms River police chief Mitchell Little instructed the Lakewood Civilian Safety Watch to immediately cease all operations in the area, according to the NJ101.5, after some residents complained about the safety patrol’s vehicles driving through their area.
The LCSW agreed to the request, acknowledging that they had sent a vehicle to the area after being asked to do so by residents who live near the Lakewood Toms River border and apologizing for any issues their presence may have caused in Toms River.
Jackson Mayor Mike Reina said on Friday that while civilian watch groups that assist local police departments can be helpful, the LCSW oversteps its bounds, with vehicles adorned with official looking emergency lights that mimic the look of police cruisers and an insignia that seems deliberately designed to look like a police badge.
Shore News Network reported that Reina was also concerned about patrol members in dark tinted windows, dressed in “military style clothing” who exceed the speed limit, ignore traffic signals and interfere in police activities.
“There comes a time and a place when an outside agency such as this blatantly attempts to outdo its authority and police on their own whenever and wherever they deem fit,” said Reina.
Reina said that on occasion, he has confused LCSW cars with official police cruisers.
“I too have seen these vehicles and pulled over to the side of the road several times to let them pass thinking it was a legitimate police response because of the red and blue lights being on,” said Reina.
“I’m sure that our residents and neighbors share a similar concern.”
Jackson police chief Matthew Kunz downplayed Reina’s concerns, noting that he has been in contact with Lakewood police chief Robert Lawson.
“As of this time, I am still awaiting contact from a member of LCSW that Chief Lawson was contacting on my behalf,” Kunz said.
“I will keep you posted, and will convene a meeting with the LCSW to ensure they are working with us, as are the other neighborhood watch programs…but see this as another neighborhood watch group… we already have several.”
The LCSW released a statement on Facebook last Thursday in response to what it called “unsubstantiated, ignorant, untrue and misleading allegations,” that have appeared on the internet, outlining the scope of the organization’s activities since its inception ten years ago.
“The LCSW is a volunteer community watch organization that has been operating in Lakewood for the past ten years. We work hand-in-hand with the Lakewood Police Department, and share a very close relationship with the police force.
We are in constant communication with law enforcement, and never embark on operations without coordinating a plan with the proper authorities. We greatly respect the LPD, and they have consistently expressed to us how much they appreciate our assistance in combating crime and keeping our town safe for all communities and residents.”
The post also noted that its members are a diverse group of volunteers of all faiths who undergo through training programs and work in conjunction with local authorities when patrolling in other municipalities.
Opinions about the LCSW appeared to be divided by Township lines on Facebook.
“I’m going to purchase a Nazi SS soldier uniform and start parading around Jackson in it,” read one post on the Jackson NJ Strong page, with another advising residents to submit pictures and video of LCSW activities to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
LCSW members Derrick Portee and Ray Cherboni shared their thoughts in support of the patrol.
“I would like to say how lcsw and the staff have change my life and i am proud to be a part of a winning team,” wrote Portee.