Camden NJ to Seal or Demolish Abandoned Houses to Reverse Violence
On February 22, NJ.com published an article titled Camden Police Chief: Reverse ‘Extreme Culture of Violence’ by Sealing, Demolishing Abandoned Houses.
Camden police chief: Reverse ‘extreme culture of violence’ by sealing, demolishing abandoned houses
CAMDEN — Following Monday’s two homicides, one of which also put a 12-year-old boy in the hospital with a gunshot wound, Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson stated he is partnering with the city to seal with concrete, or otherwise demolish, abandoned buildings used by gangs in Camden.
Monday’s shootings both occurred indoors, one in an abandoned house on 6th Street. Thomson, who touted his department’s progress on Camden’s streets, said such structures have to be secured until they can be razed.
“Monday exemplified the extreme culture of violence we will reverse with our officers and the support of the community,” said Thomson on Wednesday. “The drug gangs have calculating sociopaths that are determined to find their targets.
“Considering that crime is down 33 percent, shootings are down 20 percent, and five of our seven homicides this year have occurred inside residences or abandoned structures, is indicative of the lack of opportunity on the city streets from our foot patrols and police omnipresence.”
The chief called the wounding of the 12-year-old victim “senseless.” According to Thomson, the shooter fired at the boy while leaving the Sewell Street residence, following the day’s second homicide. “[Shooting the 12-year-old] underscores their callousness,” he said.
Thomson stated code enforcement as well as the city offices of the fire marshal, building inspector and others must work together to improve “quality of life issues” in the city, by sealing and demolishing Camden’s multitude of abandoned properties.
“We are launching a quality of life task force with the city to raze or concrete seal the abandoned properties used by the gangs,” he said. “We will also be aggressively targeting the problem houses along with a myriad of city agencies such as code enforcement, licensing and inspections, fire marshal, etc.”
Meanwhile, Dan Rhoton of Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a group that provides basic technology skills and other resources to city youths to help them find jobs, said the city has to look at the underlying causes of violence and “heal” its residents if it ever hopes to move forward.
Rhoton, Hopeworks’ chief impact director, said that while the police have been doing “great work,” relieving the stress and “mental wounds” suffered by those who have experienced violence will take more effort.
“Whether it’s homicide or an overdose, it’s part of the same cloth — we have to look at the effects of poverty in Camden,” he said. “The illusion is that you need to have a police officer on every corner, but even without crime, you will still have people suffering from poverty without a job. We need to talk about poverty and all of the deaths that come from that — not just the sensational ones.
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