ATLANTIC CITY — Residents on the 1300 block of Caspian Avenue don’t sit on their porches anymore.
Nearly two weeks after Jan Lynnet Williams, 28, and Marlon Thigpen, 25, were gunned down on the stoop of a Caspian Avenue home, long before sunset, even the daylight is no longer considered safe.
But as members of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Unit and the Atlantic City Police Department canvassed the neighborhood Tuesday, asking for information about the killings, the mood seemed to lighten. Children were outside. Women sat together talking, some hanging out of their window to watch the officers work.
Law-enforcement agencies are hoping their approach to involve residents in solving violent crimes in Atlantic City and nearby Pleasantville pays off. Both cities at different times this year have experienced persistent violence, and police are seeking help from to those that live in the communities.
The Caspian Avenue residents — still scared to have their names made public — welcomed the officers into their buildings.
While they were inside, Major Crimes Capt. Dennis McKelvey and Atlantic City police Capt. Frank Brennan handed out fliers that recapped the crime and urged anyone with information to come forward.
“Can I have two?” one woman asked as she stepped off the stoop where Williams and Thigpen were shot.
A woman riding down the middle of Caspian in a wheelchair recognized McKelvey from a similar effort in July done at nearby Magellan and Virginia avenues after two people were killed a week apart in that area. Leads were developed, though there still are no arrests in that earlier case.
A total of 11 people have been killed in Atlantic City this year.
“We’re doing what we can,” McKelvey told her.
“There’s nothing else you can do,” she said. “When nobody seen it, nobody seen it.”
That’s why the officers were there. They know somebody saw something.
“It’s important to be available,” Brennan said. “To try to get an exchange of information.”
Word got out. In less than a half-hour, all 500 fliers were gone, handed to residents and those just driving by.
When one man started yelling about how people should be giving them jobs and that the police being there was harassment, he was shouted down.
“They’re trying to solve a crime,” one woman yelled at him.
“They’re doing their jobs,” another called, leaning out of her second-story window.
Around the neighborhood, violence continues.
On Sept. 8, four men were wounded by gunfire at Stanley Holmes Village, about two blocks away.
“We’ve been trying to concentrate on the area,” Brennan said.
In Pleasantville, police have taken to periodically knocking on doors and talking with residents to step up their visibility and connections in the community.
Lt. Sean Riggin, who handles community and outreach efforts, said at a recent meeting of Pleasantville Community Neighborhood Watch that officers have spent time visiting 25 homes and businesses near Thompson Avenue and Main Street after crime complaints were received.
Only fewer than 10 admitted there were issues in the area, Riggin said, which is not the response police had hoped for — and would like to improve.
Evidence of the difficulties police must overcome was apparent only a few blocks from the Pleasantville Police Department.
Graffiti scribbled in black spray paint on a stop sign at the corner of West Adams Avenue and Second Street spelled out “STOP snitching” for about two weeks until the sign was replaced a few days ago.
Police Chief Duane Comeaux viewed the sign’s message as neither a threat to residents nor an accomplishment as a result his department’s recent work. Law enforcement patrols in Pleasantville in July and August resulted in 200 arrests.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Comeaux said. “That’s not going to stop anything, it’s not going to deter anything, it’s not going to deter anyone that wants to do the right thing.”
Tips from witnesses and to the Atlantic County Crime Stoppers hotline played a vital role in the arrests of two men suspected of stabbing and robbing a Pleasantville shop owner in late July.
Witnesses also helped identify a Galloway Township man who was wanted in connection with gunshots fired in a residential neighborhood Friday that resulted in no injuries but sent a bullet through a bedroom with sleeping children. On Saturday, Pleasantville police arrested 23-year-old Bikinson Carmil on charges of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
The Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office assisted Pleasantville police in responding to Friday night’s calls for gunfire and questioning residents.
The Sheriff’s Office, along with authorities from the Atlantic County Department of Public Safety and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, have had an increased presence in Pleasantville since violence in the city reached a fever pitch in late June after a daytime shootout.
Pleasantville has had more than 30 reports of gunfire this year, the most recent Friday night. Shootings have killed two and injured 18 others. The gun violence peaked at an average of nearly a shooting a week earlier this year before an increase in police patrols brought relative calm to the area in July.
A mid-summer shooting on Aug. 22 that injured three people was the last major incident.
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