"Jose Ortiz, 59, was Atlantic City's 14th homicide victim this year. He spent much of his time helping and caring for his mother."
– from Saturday's Press of Atlantic City
Ortiz was caught in yet another crossfire at the Stanley Holmes Village. He was another innocent victim, just riding his bike from his mother’s home to his own, minding his own business, and was shot down and died before getting to the hospital.
Ortiz's death, number 14 of 2012, matches the highest yearly total for homicides in Atlantic City. This epidemic of gun violence should be sending up warning flags. After all, besides the obvious human cost of 14 dead and 14 families with a loss that can never be replaced,there is the potential business cost. Who would want to travel to a vacation city full of gun violence? Casinos are under pressure from all kinds of competition near and far, from places where gun violence is not the order of the day.
What appears to be lacking, at least from what has been reported in the local newspaper, is a sense of outrage and crisis. Is it because the violence is black on black, minority on minority? The violence in Atlantic City and Pleasantville is reaching a tipping point. It is time for action by all of the stakeholders involved, from citizens to casinos to government.
Of course this is easy for me to say. I live on the Mainland where, with the exception of April Kauffman's still-unsolved murder, most police activity revolves around seat belt stops on Route 9. Most of us send our kids to school without worrying about drive-by shootings and stray bullets, so the suggestions that follow may well have been thought of already by folks in Atlantic City and Pleasantville, but not gotten any traction yet.
One thing is certain; it is clear that the situation cannot be tolerated any longer. The "DO AC" slogan might well be changed to "DONE IN AC.”
So here are some thoughts and suggestions to help make a positive change in the lives of the people of Atlantic City. I'll break them up into three areas: short term, mid term, and long term.
Short term, we need to bring the gun violence to a halt. Let’s move the police to where the crime is, and have the police stay there as a constant presence, either by a permanent substation location or by community policing with constant patrols. Let’s put together policing resources, from national (FBI, DEA) to state (State Police) to local that would focus on drugs, gangs, and guns.
Mid-term, we need to legalize drugs so that gangs can no longer profit from their sale. Take the taxes raised by legalization and put the money back into communities like Atlantic City.Do more gun buy backs; do drug buy backs with the money.
Long term I'd like to see Gov. Christie convene a summit meeting to which all of the stakeholders would be invited. The goal would be to produce a blueprint for the citizens of Atlantic City, a plan that would lead to making Atlantic City a good place to live and raise families without fear of flying bullets.
There are many things that can be done. City officials could move into Stanley Holmes Village as a statement of support for the residents that have put up with so much for so long. Atlantic City could take back its town, block by block, as was done in parts of Harlem, N.Y. Casinos could do more hiring of local people first, perhaps in coordination with Local 54 and other unions.
The bottom line is that government, citizens, clergy, neighboring towns, and private industry have to care enough to demand and work for an end to the killing, now.
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