BY BILL CLEARY
An email I received this week from a mother of a 13-year-old who resides in Gloucester City was upsetting. She said her son was afraid to go outside on a nice day for fear he might be beaten up by one of the gangs that allegedly roam our community. Jenny, not her real name writes,
Dear Mr. Cleary,
My name is Jenny I have lived in
Gloucester City for 10 years. When I first moved here I thought this was the
cutest town. The people are nice everyone said good morning, how are you today.
Now my 13- year- old son comes home from being out on this nice day and he
tells me about the kids on the streets and at the parks. There are kids that
are just taking over the city; it’s pretty bad when he's telling me he doesn’t
want to walk around with his cell phone or I-pod because he is in fear.
"These kids" may try to take it from him. Just today he came home and was telling me about the gangs that are going on in this town, this is really sad. He said that the cops can’t or won’t even do anything to help them. He has friends that have been victims of these so called gangs. This to me is pretty sad I know that Gloucester City isn't the only town with these problems and I'm sure your aware of what is going on; I just need to vent a little to you on this maybe you can write up a story. Thank you, Jenny
I grew up in Gloucester City and have lived here for 64 years. And although the city has its problems like so many other small towns I wouldn’t want to live any place else. After reading Jenny’s email several times I was naturally concerned. Do we actually have gangs roaming the streets of our City beating up on kids stealing their cell phones and I-Pods?
The one person who has always given me a straight answer is Police Lt. George Berglund. If there is a problem he would be the one to ask.
Six weeks ago I forward him an email from a woman named Mary (not her real name) whose house has been the target of vandals on several occasions. Besides answering my question he also gives an update on that problem.
we do not have a documented juvenile gang issue. We try to stay on top of this with the assistance of Ptl. Blackiston at the high school. He has been trained in all aspects of gang identification and keeps his eye out constantly. He would be very helpful if you tell Jenny to reach out to him. The residents have to know that they should contact us regarding these issues instead of the press.
I cannot find any police reports and I do not even know if she called. We do want to help and we need cooperation from everyone involved. Unfortunately people do not want to give us their name or address and it makes it very difficult to reach out to these people. We encourage her to bring in her son to identify these individuals so we can talk to them and see what the issue really is.
Her email does
not say that her son is or has been a victim it only says that he is in
fear. Perhaps we can at least reassure him that there is nothing to be
afraid of. This may be more of a bullying issue that we can work with the
school system to also get the necessary help that is needed. The bottom
line is that we cannot help at all if people go right to the press and not come
to the police. I do not see how they can get any help by not coming to
the police department.
I did speak to Mary about the criminal mischief issues. We patrolled her area heavily and it may have deterred some of it but unfortunately we cannot sit there 24 hours a day for seven days. I gave Mary suggestions on how to help deter this by simply putting a cheap video camera in her window this way we could identify the individual. I do not know whether my suggestion was taken or not.
We need the public to work with us in many situations. We are also asking for the public to call us for anything that seems out of the ordinary. It is difficult when the police are not the first ones called when they see something happening. We also hear that "I do not want to get involved", this is very frustrating for us as often these things cannot be solved unless the public gets involved. To solve these issues it takes a partnership between the public and police. We consider the public a force multiplier meaning they are the extra policemen on the streets.
We do have many people from the public who are not afraid to get involved and those people really make a big difference in keeping our town that much more safe. We thank those people and we encourage everyone to please call when they see something that does not seem right. These calls have often prevented burglaries and other acts of crime.
We hear that "I did not want to bother you guys because I know you have more important things to do". We are paid to be bothered and to serve the public’s interest. It serves no one’s interest by not calling us!
Please tell anyone with concerns to call us and we will work with them to help them with any issue that they may experience. We are working closely with the Mayor and Council as well as the Housing Department to improve the quality of life for the residents.
Parents have been charged under the parental responsibility ordinance for the actions of their children, rental registrations have been revoked, landlords have been charged with maintaining a nuisance and other quality of life issues are constantly being addressed. You may not hear of every single one but there are many residents who have been working with us as a team to solve some of these issues unfortunately some situations take more time than we would like but these are due to issues out of our control.