The Who and Why of the Belmont Shore Walk

By: 
Steve Propes

The basic facts of the Belmont Shore walk on Friday, Nov. 2 have been adequately documented by the local and regional press.

According to the informal organizer, Belmont Shore resident Barry Vince, 53, owner of a hi-tech staffing company, it was designed to call attention to several problems: crime that affects both businesses and residents, as well as the problem of homelessness on the Shore, but not to link the two as cause and effect.  

Vince contends that much of the “violence and theft, breaking into cars every night, entering into houses,” is largely the product of drug use, not to mention “nudity and sleeping on people’s front porches and all over the beach.”

“These thefts could be by high school students, young punks, people acting crazy,” Vince said. “We’ve had numerous items stolen, cars broken into numerous times. We’ve had fires and vandalism, garages burned down, [Dogz Bar and Grill] burned down. Bike thefts are going crazy. People in vans deploy people to steal bikes, take them to chop shop guys.”

But, Vince doesn’t place all of the blame for the problems in the neighborhood on those who are homeless.

“I’ve learned through this process that the homeless that are good people are victimized by the drug people as much as everyone else,” Vince said.

After an extended period commiserating with his neighbors about these problems, Vince decided to take action. On Oct. 19, Vince took to Facebook announcing the Nov. 2 walk.

“We are taking back our neighborhood,” Vince wrote. “I am calling on all willing citizens to join us in patrolling our streets as a show of force. We will make life very uncomfortable for the thieves and troublemakers.”

According to Vince, he wasn’t the only one that felt it was time do something for the sake of the neighborhood.

“Hundreds of people, got more and more angry, people and police were frustrated,” Vince said. “I get hundreds of emails a week about this stuff. In my eyes, it became necessary to make a get attention one morning that we’re not going to accept this situation.”

“I walk the neighborhood real early in the morning,” said Vince. “I run all over the place, and have noticed people being more and more confrontational, more brazen on Second Street, Belmont Shore, people charging cell phones on electrical outlets at businesses the owners leave wide open.

The majority of these people are drug addicts or mentally ill. At least a hundred of these people are more and more aggressive. Once we walked home from dinner, my wife was confronted and they tried to pick a fight. What hurt police enforcement was the change of the drug possession law to a misdemeanor, a ticket, not cuffs.”

The approximately 50-person walk began on Bay Shore at 5 a.m. and headed west.

“We got everybody’s attention, way more than I was anticipating,” Vince said. “The week before the walk, the area was empty.”

Across the street, about 30 members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) protested the walk, chanting about issues like homelessness and advocating for Proposition 10.

About five hours later, DSA posted on Facebook, “This is the further criminalization of poverty. People are on the streets are just trying to survive. Thanks to our members who showed up to protest this early morning!”

A request for additional comment from DSA was not answered.

“My patrols are going to continue, me and a couple of different people. The other day, I walked with a homeless advocate, part of the protesting group. I was in Peet’s the other day, buying a cup of coffee with another advocate and someone came in and stole a tip jar.”

Asked if he contemplated a Guardian Angel-style organization, Vince answered, “people were talking to me about them. It would be cool. But not right now. If necessary, we will. We’re going into a check and balance mode. Things have gotten better the last few weeks.

“The East Long Beach community watch is up to 3,000 in Naples, the Shore, all of East Long Beach.” Through use of social media, “everybody is integrated in the block.” Participants contact each other if they see trouble coming their way. If I could be the eyes on the ground in morning and share the information with the police, bad guys won’t pick our neighborhood. Police has been great. Our commander speaks with the group about the challenges they have.”

“This stuff hits home for me,” Vince said. “I’m a recovering alcoholic and work with the Long Beach Rescue Mission. I want to help them [but I] can’t have my kids in this kind of environment.”

steve@beachcomber.news

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