After 'Club Wa' notoriety, Margate Wawa gets its own police detail

Margate Wawa, the traditional gathering point for shoobie teens on Memorial Day Weekend, is getting its own police detail: pictured Saturday June 3, 2017.

MARGATE, N.J. — “Club Wa” is getting a beefed-up security detail.

Still feeling the fallout from Memorial Day weekend’s crowds of teenagers from Pennsylvania and the Cherry Hill area gathering at the town’s Wawa, and a fight involving hundreds of teens on the nearby beach, Margate police instituted a Wawa beat last weekend that will continue all summer, police officials said.

The overtime tab to keep the lid on the visiting teenagers will be picked up by Wawa, Margate Police Detective Joseph Scullion said.

Last Saturday night, Officer Frank Marciante and Class II patrolman John Barillo were stationed outside a quiet Wawa parking lot at Washington and Ventnor Avenues. Both said they were on the beach on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, when fights broke out among teenagers from rival Pennsylvania high schools.

Margate police said a final tally from the weekend showed 13 arrests in the affluent beach town, including 11 of people aged 20 and under from Pennsylvania and Cherry Hill, for disorderly conduct, alcohol, and marijuana offenses. The other two were unrelated arrests for adults for driving while intoxicated and simple assault.

The officers said they were both pictured in the video of the arrest of a fighting teen as hundreds stood around, which was featured in national and international media.  Of the rowdiness and fights on the beach over the holiday weekend, Marciante said, “It was as bad as it looked.”

Wawa has agreed to pay for the security detail, a common practice for businesses that request police presence, Scullion said. “Wawa got tired of it,” he said.

The detail will run four hours a night, from 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, through the summer, he said.

Saturday night around 9:30, all was quiet outside the Wawa as Marciante and Barillo leaned against a barricade that controls traffic along Washington. The crowds present on Memorial Day weekend will probably not be duplicated until Fourth of July, but even that holiday does not typically draw the end-of-school-year meet-up frenzy of Memorial Day.

The Wawa was dubbed Club Wa in a tweet by a local teen, apparently mocking the shoobies for hanging outside the Margate convenience store every summer as if it were a nightclub.

The Margate Wawa, a traditional gathering point for shoobie teens on Memorial Day weekend, got its own police detail Saturday night.

Witnesses said the fight on the beach was between students of Harriton High School in the Lower Merion district and Friends’ Central School. One officer was hit with a Gatorade bottle, and some in the crowd threw sand at them.

Margate police released their blotter from the weekend with home towns of the juveniles and names and ages of those over 18.

The fight led to three arrests by Barillo, Marciante, and three other police officers. Those arrested were identified by police as Aiden Plunkett, 19, of Upper Darby, and a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old from Narberth, whose names were not released. Plunkett was charged with simple assault and released on a summons. The juveniles were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and released to the custody of a family friend.

Other juveniles arrested over the holiday weekend were a 15-year-old from Ambler for a marijuana possession; a 17-year-old from Cherry Hill for disorderly conduct; a 17-year-old from Villanova for marijuana; a 16-year-old from Willow Grove for disorderly conduct; and a 17-year-old from Yardley for marijuana and motor vehicle violations.

Those over 18 who were arrested were identified as Nicholas Vernacchio, 19, of Dresher, charged with obstruction of law and underage consumption of alcohol, and Morgan Miller, 20, of Gladwyne, and Julia Tissian, 20, of Narberth, who were charged with disorderly conduct and released on a summons.

Ricky Sayer, a reporter who is graduating this month from Harriton, said he was on the scene just after the arrests. He said in an online message: “It’s become tradition over the years for students from Harriton High School to meet up with one another at the beach adjacent to Lucy. They return after they  graduate. Many people are clearly intoxicated. The police can tell there is underage drinking going on. I personally saw a number of them walking around the large group in the hours following the fight.”

The Lower Merion School District released this statement about the student involvement at the Shore: “This kind of behavior is inexcusable and cause for great concern. We understand that the matter is now in the hands of law enforcement; if and where the district has the legal authority to act, we will.

“The incident should serve reminders of the dangers of engaging in harmful and illegal activities, including underage drinking and substance abuse. In addition to significant health and safety risks, potential consequences include the loss of scholarships, college acceptances and personal reputation – particularly in the age of social media.

“We encourage parents to speak with their children about this incident and the importance of making safe, responsible and intelligent decisions.”

Staff writer Kathy Boccella contributed to this article.