Residents in Atlantic City’s most troubled areas will see a visible increase in police this week, Public Safety Director Willie Glass said.
And those in the neighborhoods say they welcome it.
“They definitely need more patrols,” said Jerry Fundenberg, 69, as he took a break outside My Place Deli, caddycorner from the spot where a man was wounded by gunfire Sunday night.
Police Chief Ernest Jubilee put out a transfer order late last week moving several officers out of other units to increase patrol numbers.
“That increased presence should be really visible tonight,” Glass said Monday. “This is just one step in moving toward that increased presence all the way around.”
The patrols won’t just be in cars, he said. They sometimes will include officers on bikes and walking the beat. Called “walk and parks,” the practice allows officers to be on the street but keeps them close enough to their cars that they can quickly get to a call.
“We need cops walking in the area, not just in cars,” Fundenberg said. “People need to know they’re here.”
Fundenberg was at his home in Carver Hall about 10 p.m. Sunday when he heard gunshots. He looked outside to see a man running down Sewell Avenue from Stanley Holmes Village.
When police arrived on the 1500 block of Sewell, they found two calibers of shell casings and a blood trail, but no victim. While they investigated, Abdul Bailey, 19, walked into AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus with a gunshot wound to his hand.
He could not describe the suspect or say why he was shot, Sgt. Monica McMenamin said. He also would not say how he got to the emergency room from Sewell Avenue.
Bailey has an outstanding drug arrest and was sentenced on a drug charge when he was 16, records show.
“They need something for these kids to do,” said Toni Nellom, who is raising six children in Stanley Holmes. “They need something to stop these children from being on street corners and becoming a statistic.”
Her voice rose as she talked about the importance of activities and employment for the city’s youth — and the bad reputation she feels those who live in her neighborhood have because of the violence.
“People work around here. People pay rent around here,” Nellom said. “We’re a family-based community. We watch out for each other.”
But many walking around the area Monday afternoon said they watch from inside their homes, afraid to venture outside at night.
“The neighborhood watch is afraid to come out and watch,” Fundenberg said. “I ain’t mad at them.”
He was in the stockroom last August when he heard gunfire inside the deli about 11:30 a.m. He looked over to see Shamir Harper, 28, fall to the ground. The shooter ran as Fundenberg watched Harper take his last breath.
“The store was crowded,” Fundenberg said. “He was there for one person.”
No arrests have been made.
The Vietnam veteran — who said he did two tours — said his hometown is worse than the battlefield.
“At least in Vietnam, you knew who was shooting at you,” he said. “Here, you don’t know.”
But they are getting younger, residents say.
“They need more community things for kids, especially the young teenagers,” said Troy Leach, 31. “That’s who’s killing each other.”
He hears the gunshots nightly from his home in the village.
“We hear it all the time,” he said. “I’m sick of hearing it. They need to help these children.”
The department also needs help in adding to the patrols, police union President Paul Barbere said.
“The problem is that these transfers are a temporary fix to a serious problem,” he said. “It will get worse with the pending additional retirements. This is another reason to revisit the number of officers this city needs.”
As for patrol, “there are plans in the not-too-distant future to increase it again,” Glass said.
Right now, the force is at about 320 — under the minimum of 330 the city administration promised the PBA when laid-off officers were brought back to work last year. That doesn’t count 20 Special Law Enforcement IIs, who joined the force this month in an effort to move some of the veteran full-time officers off the Boardwalk and into the neighborhoods. They are paid at an hourly rate and do not cost the city benefits. They also do not have police powers outside the city or outside their limited hours.
Recruits to fill some of the full-time spots will enter the academy next month, Glass said. Numbers are also being looked at to see whether the city will accept a federal grant that was recently approved to hire as many as 16 officers. Those would be in addition to the current 320 but would still cost the city part of those salaries — and 100 percent of the pay in the fourth year.
The city wants to use the grant but is not yet sure how many officers it would be able to afford.
Residents just want to see something done, they say.
“We need kids to know there’s something beyond guns,” Nellom said. “They don’t have to be in coffins.”
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