WESTFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A town in Union County is taking measures to stop large groups of teens from gathering in parks at night.
Police say the meetings violate social distancing rules.
Mindowaskin Park in Westfield was buzzing with toddlers and strollers Tuesday afternoon, but when the sun goes down on weekends, police say it becomes a popular hang out for teenagers, hundreds of them, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.
Parents say the teens make the plans on social media.
“They text each other ‘Hey what’s everyone doing tonight?” Garwood resident Carmela Diaz said.
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“A lot of events and the activities that they normally engage in have been suspended and there is no doubt they are frustrated. I think these large gatherings … they’re exercising frustrations,” Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro said.
The brand new playground, which is meant for younger children, was vandalized and there have been reports of rocks thrown at cars.
“I think the large numbers and probably playing aggressively on the equipment caused some damage,” Battiloro said.
Police say teens meet up without masks despite signs throughout the park. Now, the town is planning to install deterrents like bright lights and possibly some fencing.
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One group of moms came to the park Tuesday to pray for teens struggling with the lack of socialization because of COVID-19, something everyone can relate to.
“They are having a hard time. They’re not necessarily understanding things,” said Diaz.
“I tell them I know you want to go out, but it’s really not very safe right now,” said Atteliah Williams of Plainfield.
They say they are trying to find other outlets for their kids’ energy and have had smaller socially distanced gatherings outside at their homes where kids can be monitored.
The park is located next to the police station, so police say there are almost always constant patrols.
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