Religious and community leaders speak out for a safer Camden

Religious and community leaders speak out for a safer Camden

Photo by Luis Valdez

kidwithpastor-webPastor Lyssette Perez of Asbury United Methodist Church holds the microphone for Ariana Nicole Santana-Peralta during a meeting between Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP) and Mayor Dana Redd on Monday, March 12, at the Kaighn Avenue Baptist Church. During the meeting CCOP leaders presented findings on successful methods to reduce violence in the city.

CAMDEN — A change in strategy is necessary to reduce the violence and crime in the city, according to Zoraida Gonzales Torres, a community activist and co-chairwoman of the Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP).

This was brought out to Mayor Dana Redd and Prosecutor Walter Faulk, City Council President Francisco Moran, and Police Chief Scott Thomson who met March 12 with community and church leaders at Kaighn Avenue Baptist Church.

“We’ve been trying to put together a group of community people, government officials, and various groups so they can look at this new strategy,” said Torres.

It was noted at the meeting there should be a change in the way the police work, Torres said. “We should improve education, training, bringing jobs to the city, improving healthcare and we feel violence could be reduced. We should look at what other cities are doing to reduce crime and violence by as much as 80 percent. More police officers is not the answer. Something long-term must be done.”

Pastor Heyward Wiggins III of Camden Bible Tabernacle, who was at the meeting, said he felt “optimistic” that the meeting was a good start but there was a lot of work to be done, he said. He promised that whatever has to be done, “I’ll try to be there.”

Torres indicated that the mayor would meet with civic officials and community leaders before the end of the month to see who will be members of the advisory group, adding that she would be back in three months to report on what was happening.

Other clergy in attendance included Msgr. Robert McDermott, pastor of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, Pastor Lyssette Perez of Asbury United Methodist Church, Bishop Barbara Farmer of Faith Tabernacle of the Living God, along with Camden Congregations To Speak Out For A Safer Camden, and Martin Gutwein, rector of St. Paul Episcopal Church, who shared that “people need hope, support and paths to training; people need legal ways to earn a living that will reduce violence.”

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