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History and Demographics of Cape May

The jurisdiction of the Cape May Police Department consists of the City of Cape May and Boroughs of West Cape May and Cape May Point. These three towns are located in the southern most tip of New Jersey, bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

The City of Cape May was incorporated in 1857 and holds the distinction of being the oldest seashore resort in the United States. The most distinctive feature of Cape May is its Victorian heritage, carefully retained in several hundred beautifully manicured structures throughout the City. In the Bicentennial Year of 1976, the entire City was designated a National Historic Landmark. In addition, Cape May is the home of the sole U.S. Coast Guard Recruit Training Center for enlisted members in the United States.

The Borough of West Cape May was incorporated in 1884. The Borough was home to Mayflower descendents, former slaves, riverboat pilots and whalers. The Borough’s history goes back to the Lenape Indians and several buildings date to the Colonial period. The area has a rich agricultural history, which continues to be celebrated each year with a summer farmers’ market, and strawberry and lima bean festivals.

Philadelphia textile merchant Alexander Whilldin founded the Borough of Cape May Point in 1875, which at the time was called Sea Grove. Whilldin and several others set out to develop the area as Christian resort, however due to financial problems this was never realized. The Borough was officially incorporated from the Township of Lower in 1878 and was given the name Cape May Point.

The geographical jurisdiction of the Cape May Police Department is approximately 4.3 square miles. According to the latest census information completed in 2000, there are 5,370 year round residents and 5,569 housing units. The population in the jurisdiction swells into the tens of thousands during the summer season. As a result, the department depends on seasonal officer to address the increased workload.

The history of the Cape May Police Department dates back to the mid 19th century. The first mention of a police department was in 1848 when the City was incorporated as the Borough of Cape Island. The first recorded member of the department was Thomas B. Hughes who held the title of Constable. In 1878, records indicate a Chief of Police and an unspecified number of officers. In 1889, the City Council stirred controversy by appointing 5 special summer police officers. In May of 1926, a City Manager’s Report listed that the force consisted of a Chief, Sergeant, seven patrol officers and a motorcycle officer.

Today, when fully staffed, the department consists of 23 sworn officers, 4 civilian communications operators, 2 civilian administrative assistants and one auxiliary officer (crossing guard). In addition, the department employs up to (20) seasonal officers to supplement the full-time staff.