EGG HARBOR CITY — A group of 30 concerned city residents gathered at the Moravian Church on Nov. 9 to listen to, and interact with, three organizers who plan to initiate a neighborhood watch program in the city.
Reed Cramer, Nancy Messenger and Ted Wardencki expressed concerns about crime in the city and see more awareness on behalf of residents as a method to cut some of the crime.
“We want to reinstitute a program that took place in the 1980s,” Wardencki said.
“We are not advocating that we become vigilantes. In fact, we want to avoid confrontation,” Messenger said. “We want residents to be aware of their surroundings and watch out for your neighbors. Be alert, and if you see something suspicious, notify the police.”
“There are all sorts of issues, including prostitution, homelessness and panhandling,” Cramer said. “We are not here to talk about littering or jaywalking. This town has a serious drug problem with dealing happening openly. If you see something suspicious, take notes and photos and notify the police.”
Egg Harbor City recorded 127 crimes from January to October, up nine from the same period in 2016. It reported 130 total crimes in 2015 and 100 in 2014, according to data compiled by State Police. Its crime rate per 1,000 residents in 2015 was 30.5. By comparison, Atlantic City's crime rate per 1,000 was 91.5, neighboring Galloway Township's was 19.1 and neighboring Mullica Township's was 11.2.
The most common crimes year to date have been theft (92), simple assault (42) and burglary (16).
Cramer said a citywide curfew for youths is not strongly enforced.
“The curfew is from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. on weekends,” he said. “If you see kids out during those hours, notify their parents if you know them.”
Police Officer Keith Armor was scheduled to do a crime prevention presentation at the meeting. Ironically and symbolically, he was delayed as he was called to investigate a suspected drug deal in one of the city’s alleys.
“That bolstered what we talked about at the meeting,” Cramer said, who added response from attendees was positive.
Those attendees included Candace Negron and Andrew Dixon from the Egg Harbor City Coalition for a Safe Community.
“They offered to provide us with resources and financial backing,” Cramer said. “That will be very helpful moving forward.”
Mayor Lisa Jiampetti is pleased to see the program underway.
“We have wanted to start a program for a long time,” she said. “Now that it is up and running, it would help in a situation like we had when the four juveniles escaped from Harborfields.”
“The police can’t be everywhere, so having extra sets of eyes out there is very beneficial,” she said.
“This is our home, this is our town," Cramer said. "We need to take it back.”