Gloria Hamlett was excited when she found out about her internship for her last year at Stockton College: part of a project to help Atlantic City.
"I'm in my community, part of something to make change," said the 42-year-old mother of six who has lived in the city for more than two decades.
On Friday night, she was part of this summer's first Community Walk through Atlantic City's more troubled neighborhoods.
The walks began last year as a way to support the troubled neighborhoods and join together city leaders, law enforcement and the community.
"It was a good start to a great initiative," said Perry Mays, president of the Coalition for a Safe Community, which leads the walks.
This year, Stockton College has joined in, compiling data and looking at ways to improve issues in the neighborhoods as the university partner in the newly formed Atlantic City-Pleasantville Municipal Planning Board, which looks to tackle the community problems from all angles.
Some solutions can cost little but make differences as far as crime and other problems, explained Marissa Levy, the associate criminology professor who has been collecting data for the project.
Addressing lighting, drainage issues, environmental issues and other quality of life concerns are all things that can help, she said.
While the walks got lots of attention, the organizers now want to get more attendees.
"We get a lot of inquiries, because we're walking through the neighborhoods at night," police Chief Ernest Jubilee said. "I just wish more neighborhood people would come out and join us."
The walks began at midnight last year, then changed to earlier hours to get more people involved. The times could change again this year, Jubilee said. But that has not been determined.
The weekly gatherings are also used to get out information about upcoming events as well as answering questions or listening to complaints residents may have.
"We're having a cookout," Ernestine Smith said as she handed out fliers announcing the next Stop the Silence planned for 1 p.m. Tuesday at New York Avenue School. "Games, music, free food, free drinks."
Police also put out information about the tip411 line, which allows people to anonymously text tips to 847411 including a two-way discussion as long as they begin the text with ACPD.
"The residents are generally happy to see the group," said Sgt. Monica McMenamin, who participated last summer. "The various leaders have come together for the community in an effort to encourage conversation and problem solving."
Mays said there were many questions last year, and even remembered one boy saying he wanted to be a police officer one day.
"I think we really made a difference by having all sectors of our community come together as one as a way of showing support in each of the neighborhoods we walked in," he said. "This year we hope many of the neighbors will join in with the marches as a sign of solidarity."
Neither Public Safety Director Will Glass nor Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert was able to make this year's first walk, but both expressed support for the walks.
"I think it was a terrific idea generated by Chief Jubilee with the support of Perry Mays, Kaleem Shabazz (and the coalition)," Glass said. "It shows what we can accomplish when everyone works together."
Partnership and trust are important for effective community policing, Gilbert said.
"The Community Walks put the ACPD and public officials in handshake range of the community and their concerns," he said. "Building these bridges is a critical step in improving the quality of life for Atlantic City's residents and visitors."
But walks are just one part of the coalition's plans.
"(We) would like to see the neighborhoods with programs," May said of things such as job training, early childhood programs, education and lessons for a healthy lifestyle.
"(The coalition) is also identifying programs that will engage law enforcement officers and our youth for a team approach," he said.
Friday night's walk was well received, including applause from residents as the walk came back to Stanley Holmes Village toward the starting spot at All Wars Memorial Building.
"Last year when we started this, you didn't have all these kids out here like this," said schools security Chief Dewane Parker. "It was quiet."
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