POLICE, COMMUNITY GET ACQUAINTED

By JEFFREY BRAMNICK, Courier-Post Staff

CAMDEN – The guests ate cookies, and drank coffee and soda while waiting for the master of the house to give them a tour.

In groups of two and three, newly appointed police Chief Bob Pugh took about 30 guests through the brick building at Federal Street and Haddon Avenue, home to 274 city policemen for part of each day.

Pugh opened the doors of the Police Administration Building from 7 to 9 last night so city residents could learn more about their police. It is a practice he plans to continue on the first Wednesday of each month.

“I’m doing this to continually open up channels to the community so we can learn what your problems are and you can see how we are,” Pugh told Calvin and Jacqueline Aiken of South Camden. “For too long this department has told you what the problems are, now we’re asking you to tell us.”

The Aikens ought to know. Their neighborhood in the 1900 block of Fillmore Street is infested with drug dealers and prostitutes.

“He has swept up piles of needles and condoms right near our house many times,” Jacqueline said, nodding toward her husband as the couple waited their turn for a tour.

“Our neighborhood is really bad. We’ve got drug dealers with walkie-talkies warning each other when the cops are coming,” she said. “You can’t even walk to church without somebody trying to sell you drugs or asking you if you want to have sell”

The Aikens said they have been threatened many times, but still they stand strong.

“Just to come here tonight we had to get somebody to sit in our house or else they’ll (drug users) steal everything.”

Most of the people at the open house were afraid to give their names, because as one woman from Parkside said, “the druggies will come after us.”

When their turn came, Chief Pugh told Jacqueline and Calvin that Camden could use a few more residents like them.

“I have to rally around people like this; I need them out there,” Pugh said.

While meeting with the chief in his office, the Aikens told Pugh that problems in their neighborhood were worsening, again.

“It was getting better when you stepped up the patrols,” Calvin explained. But, he said, the drug dealers have caught on to police activity in the neighborhood and have found ways around it.

“We need to make a change in that area and we’re working on that,” Pugh assured the couple.

For the first time in a long time, Jacqueline said, she is optimistic about her neighborhood.

“We approve of most of what he’s (Pugh) doing,” she said.

Jacqueline supports Chief Pugh’s efforts so strongly that she carries a picture of him in her wallet.

“I cut this out of the Courier,” she said comparing it to a wall photo of Pugh. “I even have a picture of him in my Bible.

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