No jewelry, drugs found in beach sweeps?

The vigilance of metal-detector fanciers could be one reason Clean Ocean Action's two 2012 beach sweeps turned up almost nothing valuable. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer)
The vigilance of metal-detector fanciers could be one reason Clean Ocean Action's two 2012 beach sweeps turned up almost nothing valuable. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 19, 2013

More than 350,000 pieces of trash were collected and tabulated last year during two massive clean-up efforts that spanned New Jersey's beaches, according to a new report.

Categories include Cigar Tips, Fishing Bait Containers, Diapers, Buoys/Floats, Lights: Fluorescent Tubes, Condoms/Rubber Bands, Car Parts, Nails and Shoes/Sandals.

But no valuable jewelry.

One Blackberry.

No bags of dope.

And very little cash: A $5 bill, a $1 bill and a nickel.

Seriously? Some 6,926 volunteers, combing New Jersey beaches once in April 2012 and again in October and they find 1,374 pens, 29 car batteries and a fully decorated Christmas tree, but "litter"-ally couldn't find a dime, let alone a diamond ring or an iPhone?

See "29 types of N.J. beach trash"

Nobody was keeping a tight rein on the finding of loose change, said Tavia Danch, education coordinator for Clean Ocean Action, which organized the efforts of more than a hundred civic groups and governmental agencies for the annual Beach Sweeps.

"Sometimes people find stuff and they keep it" - like interesting shells or cool pieces of driftwood, she said.

But she's never seen or heard of anyone finding something very valuable in her five years with Clean Ocean Action, and on Oct. 20 she was in charge of 300 helpers in Atlantic City who picked up 10,869 bits of trash.

Perhaps the best explanation (besides ring losers refusing to give up) is that any good stuff was already gone, discovered by those familiar treasure hunters wielding metal detectors before sundown and right after sunup every day the beaches are crowded.

"Possibly," said Danch. "That might account for some of the reason that we haven't found anything that valuable."

More than 47,000 bags of all kinds . . . and not a single bag of marijuana?

"We always find drug bags," but empty ones, probably flushed down toilets into combined sewage systems that dump into the sea, including from New York City, she said.

She herself saw a cluster of hypodermic needles under the Boardwalk that suggested drug use there.

In the overall haul, a bong, yes, but no actual drugs.

A Swiss army knife and a dinner knife, but no guns.

Any real treasures, like a wedding ring (and any guns or contraband) should, of course, get turned over to authorities.

"We're hoping that people are very decent about that and take appropriate action," she said.

That especially applies to the next sweep, on Saturday, April 27, since it's the first since Superstorm Sandy, which damaged or destroyed many homes along the northern Shore late last October, leaving trails of debris.

"We expect this year to be a lot more interesting in light of all the crazy storms that we had this past season," she said.

Speaking of crazy stuff, TV crime shows give the impression that bodies sometimes turn up on beaches.

Although a Sea Isle City detective did once inquire about trash that might have held clues in a murder investigation, over the years drug use and littering have been the main crimes clean-up crews found evidence of.

"We found a lot of wildlife both alive and dead, but no human carcasses," Danch said.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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