Officials, faith leaders push for efficient drug laws

CAMDEN — Assemblyman Angel Fuentes wants to give law enforcement officials a new law with teeth that will drag the drug dealers off the streets and give the neighborhoods back to families so children can play on the streets again in peace without danger.

He brought this out in an afternoon press conference on June 7 at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral with Mayor Dana Redd, Camden Police Chief John Scott Thomson, City Council President Frank Moran, and leaders from the local organizing committee of St. Joseph’s Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP).

Fuentes was there to explain his bill, A-2416, of which he is the primary sponsor, that would add amendments to the Drug Offense Restraining Order. Co-sponsor is Assemblyman Whip Wilson. Sen. Donald Norcross is sponsoring a similar bill, S-1782, in the State Senate.

The existing law allows law enforcement to issue restraining orders against drug dealers to keep them from selling, but Fuentes noted that a drug transaction must be seen in order to get the restraining order. Without this provision, the dealer can continue doing business.

“Parents are afraid to call police because they fear reprisals if they should do that and go to court,” he said. “They especially fear for the safety of their children. The neighborhood must be given back to the people.”

“Enough is enough,” the assemblyman continued. “We must create a level of trust between the people and the police. Residents must be given a more active role in their communities. These amendments would be a tool for the police to do this.”

When the police know a drug dealer is in a school yard (a favorite spot for these vipers, Fuentes noted) or on a street corner or in front of a business, “if the police can’t see the actual transaction, it’s difficult to bring these dealers to court and to get a restraining order because a judge may not be available at that time to sign it, particularly late at night,” Fuentes said.

The amendments would allow law enforcement to create a buffer zone through a restraining order, no matter what time an arrest is made, and the actual transaction does not have to be seen because the police can get the order from a judge electronically, Fuentes pointed out.

Fuentes made it clear that constitutional rights would not be violated. “I did my homework on this,” he said, noting that he contacted administrative law judges and even the ACLU and the state N.J. Prosecutors Association who all said no rights would be violated.

“The whole idea for the new ordinance started when a group of us met in St. Joe’s kitchen with Msgr. Robert McDermott to see what we could do,” the assemblyman said. “It will pass.”

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