Public event safety eyed in new rules


Kearny’s VFW post is asking the town to divert traffic off Belgrove Drive, from Bergen Ave. to Afton St., on July 7 for 10 hours so it can hold a fundraising motorcycle run and pig roast in memory of Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz.

Local scouts are seeking approvals to run a campout at Veterans Field for the weekend of Aug. 8-9.

And the Ganesh Pariwaar of N.J. and Indian community proposes to conduct a procession/ parade from the Hindu Community Center on Schuyler Ave. to the Frank Vincent Marina via Bergen Ave. for five hours of rituals on Sept. 27.

These and many more requests anticipated during the warm weather period for use of municipal property will trigger a presence of uniformed and civilian employees to ensure a safe and clean outcome and that is raising both staffing and financial concern among town officials.

And now they’re doing something about it.

Jennifer M. Long, commander of VFW Post 1302, told the governing body last Tuesday that the post planned to deploy volunteers to help with traffic control during the proposed July event and for another veterans’ fundraiser – requiring the closure of several streets and possibly up to 20 Kearny cops for overtime coverage – for a 5K run/BBQ in memory of Staff Sgt. Jorge Oliveira on Aug. 1.

Mayor Alberto Santos explained that municipal assistance would be needed for both events from police, fire, public works and recreation personnel and, he said, “there will be a strain” on understaffed departments which, he added, will force the town to “bring in extra coverage” on an overtime basis, thereby putting the town under fiscal stress.

But, the mayor told Long, “Certainly we’ll work with you to see what can be done,” and recommended that the VFW confer, in particular, with Police Chief John Dowie on how many cops would be needed for adequate coverage.

Still fresh on the minds of officials is a disturbing incident that occurred at a privately-run carnival held on town-owned land on Passaic Ave. on Easter Sunday when, according to police, a teenage girl was groped by a Newark man while they were aboard a ferris wheel. The man was later charged with sexual contact. And that night, police said, a brawl developed in the parking lot of a nearby eatery.

So, as a beginning step to try and enhance safety at such public events, the town proposes to add conditions that must be met before it will issue permits to organizations seeking approvals for the use of public space.

“We’re starting with carnivals and the like because they carry a higher public safety concern,” Santos said. “Other events,” he added, “will require more study.”

To that end, the Town Council voted for introduction of an ordinance amending existing policy by “requiring at least two offduty police officers at certain times at circuses, bazaars and carnivals.”

The revised policy would require a permit applicant looking to hold a weekend function to “provide a police presence at the site from 6 p.m. to one hour after closing at a number required by the Chief of Police, but in no event less than two, one to be on premises and one for traffic duty.”

If the event is being held on designated holidays, the applicant must provide a similar police presence “from the time the site is opened to the public until one hour after closing ….”

Applicants are responsible for paying police overtime costs but, if the police chief cannot secure officers for the overtime work, “the applicant shall provide a licensed private security presence by an entity approved by the Chief of Police and at a number required by him” and “shall be responsible for compensating the entity retained.”

A public hearing on the ordinance will be scheduled for next month.

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