With two unsolved homicides for 2013 — just one homicide fewer than Atlantic City has this year — suburban Galloway Township is seeing an increase in violence, driven by heightened enforcement in the seaside resort.
“The more pressure law-enforcement agencies are putting on the criminal element in Atlantic City, the more it’s pushing them out,” said Galloway Township Police Chief Pat Moran.
From 2010 to 2012, Galloway has seen calls for police service increase 32 percent, from 29,950 to 39,602. Arrests increased 18 percent during that same period, from 1,291 to 1,528.
Moran said he’s not blaming a neighboring community for his department’s increased work.
“As a suburb of a big city, it’s expected that we will be dealing with some incidents and crime that come from the city — and vice versa,” Moran said.
But there are certain factors at work. Federal, state and county task forces are operating within Atlantic City, and some of that pressure has flushed out the criminals into other communities, Moran said.
Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford said the case of crime coming over municipalities’ borders is “a two-edged sword that cuts both ways.”
“In as much as you can attribute a certain degree of crime that emanates from the city and spreads to the suburbs, by the same token, much of the prostitution, drugs and other crimes flooding the city emanates from the suburbs,” he said.
Langford said an overwhelming majority of Atlantic City’s 2,000 needle-exchange participants are males from surrounding communities.
“The same can be said as it relates to prostitution,” he added. “Most of the street walkers who stroll Pacific Avenue are not from Atlantic City. The point is, a significant amount of crime that occurs in the city emanates from the suburbs. That’s why it is important for all neighboring communities — as well as law enforcement agencies — to work cooperatively in order to effectively attack the problem.”
Moran said his department has a strong working relationship with the Atlantic City Police Department, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Department and police forces in the neighboring communities of Absecon, Egg Harbor and Hamilton townships.
“I agree with Mayor Langford’s philosophy: the more we work together, the better off we will all be,” Moran said.
Last week, Moran announced that the department was stepping up its patrols in areas with a high number of crimes or complaints.
Budget cuts had curbed the department’s patrols, but they’re now using money forfeited through arrests to pay for the additional police details, he said.
“Check on your neighbor. If you see that something doesn’t appear right, well, then call the police. It’s time for the people to take back their communities,” said Galloway Mayor Don Purdy.
A recent unsolved homicide was disconcerting for residents, said Councilman Jim Gorman.
On July 11, 36-year-old Metrevell Gatling was found shot in the head at East Collins Avenue and Colonial Court. Gatling’s ex-girlfriend Danielle Tobias said Gatling who is the father of their 3-year-old son Isaiah was waiting at the bus stop to go into work at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City the night he was gunned down in Galloway. Gatling died from his wound the next morning after life support was stopped, Tobias said.
“What happened to Mr. Santos what it seemed like to me was definitely an execution. From what people have said this wasn’t random and it was pretty personal. Is Galloway safe? I would say it’s fairly safe. Both of the killings seem to be premeditated. With the two homicides we don’t know if the problem was here or if it was finished,”
The April 4 fatal shooting of Atlantic City barber shop owner Wally de Los Santos happened in the driveway of his Falling Leaf Court home when he returned early that morning from the city. His son Waldy said his father who owned Wally’s Barber Shop on Ventnor Avenue was too nice and always trying to get people off of the Atlantic City streets.
“When you look at the police blotter it’s not everyone from Galloway that’s involved in the crimes. Anytime you have a density area like Galloway or Atlantic City the incidents and activity go up and they’re higher,” he said.
Atlantic City and Pleasantville have teamed up through a joint Municipal Planning Board that looks at crime and violence from all sides because they know these problems cross city lines. When asked about the possibility that could push the problem to other towns — such as Galloway — Criminology Professor Marissa Levy said that is always a risk.
“While that is certainly a possibility, I think they have better support systems in place to handle those problems,” said Levy, who has been compiling data on crime, education, employment and other factors believed to be factors of crime.
Meanwhile, overall crime in Atlantic City crime is down and officials hope it stays that way, Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small said.
Small said he is tired of other towns pointing the finger at Atlantic City and it is disgrace for them to blame the city for the ills of their town. And it’s not just Galloway Township. Small said Pleasantville has pointed the finger at Atlantic City, too.
“When you look at the situation, our Police Department and everyone who has an interest in the city of Atlantic City’s public safety have done a great job of getting things calmer,” Small said.
Atlantic City has had just three homicides this year.
By this time last year, there were 11 homicides in the city and 16 in the county.
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