Police Department Details Conflicting Mission Post Sandy
The Toms River Police Department had many tasks at hand during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy according to police chief Michael Mastronardy. As soon as the police department’s rescue efforts ended, the job became one of maintaining safety and security in the affected areas. It was a task Mastronardy described as conflicting as he wanted to maintain the safety and security of affected communities, but also felt for the people who just wanted to get back into their homes and get their lives back on track.
Mastronardy said that in Sandy’s wake, his own department could not traverse the roads on the barrier island until they were made safe by the Department of Transportation. He documented 75 instances of sinkholes along route 35 in the island communities.
He said once the roads were cleared for access, the department had, and still have numerous safety and security issues to contend with.
The storm affected each barrier island and bay front community differently. In Seaside Park, damage was limited to flooding and what Mastronardy described as looking like having a rain storm, Lavallette suffered flood damage and limited structural damages, but just blocks south in Ortley Beach, the entire oceanfront was obliterated, he said.
Each community had to be treated differently based on the damage and the needs of the local residents in each section of the town.
As rumors of looting spread on the internet, Mastronardy said that was not the case in his town’s barrier island communities. He said the department essentially put the beach communities on lock down and aside from minor thefts reported, there were no cases of looting there. He said more suspicious persons calls were made in Silverton, until that section too had increased security measures put in place.
“There were no cases of looting on the island because there was nobody there. Just cops.” he said. The Toms River beachfront was being guarded by State Police from Massachusetts, Illinois and Louisiana.
In Toms River, the police department used Toms River school buses to block off entry points to keep out non-residents while traffic was being diverted through checkpoints along the main access points to they bay side communities.
“We also have to protect in the future. When we bring people back on the island, we don’t want to bring Johnny Crook in and victimize someone,” he said. ”Our mission here is not to just let you back in, make your repairs, winterize, our issue is also in the future that we have patrols that will be stepped up and committed.”
Some of the assets the township has with out of state enforcement will soon be leaving he said and the Toms River department will have to pick up the slack. Mastronardy said there were several calls about metal scrappers, but nothing significant.
“I went to Katrina and I can tell you, this is Katrina without death and injury,” he said “We should be thankful that nobody on the barrier island was harmed is a miracle.” The mission of safety he said continued and that is why the barrier island access has to be controlled.
“I wish I could sit here and say it’s going to be perfect,” Mastronardy said. ”It’s going to be different. It’s like a death for some of us. We’re here as your police department. We realize you’re victims and our job as police officers is to protect our victims.”