Atlantic City in recent years has significantly reduced crime with improved policing methods, especially violent crimes. That more needs to be done was highlighted by two incidents on its Boardwalk last month.
First, the apparent harassment and shoplifting by a group of youths escalated tragically. Store owner Mehmood Ansara collapsed after he and his store were attacked and he was threatened. Among charges for a 12-year-old boy accused of brandishing a knife against Ansara were robbery, simple assault, shoplifting and weapons charges, while a 14-year-old girl got the same but without the weapons charges.
The situation seemed to worsen the next week when a clerk at another store reported a robbery, but then wound up being charged by police with making a false crime report.
The Atlantic City community has a lot of resilience and has responded as expected with much discussion and collaboration — then started taking actions to better address the Boardwalk problem specifically and youth crime in general.
The city Police Department immediately began to consider putting a substation on the Boardwalk — a help not only to get officers where needed more quickly, but as a reminder of a significant police presence.
As it happens, the department also culminated steps last month to raise the strength and profile of enforcement — promoting nine Class II officers to full-time department members, swearing in 15 more Class II officers, and working toward hiring 24 additional special law enforcement officers. In addition, a federal Department of Justice grant will fund two mental health clinicians to help engage those at risk.
We especially like the ongoing effort by the Leaders in Training program to place city kids in part-time jobs on the Boardwalk, which can go a long way toward the responsibility, communication and mutual respect that prevent many problems.
The program pays the young workers $15 an hour and is funded by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino co-owner Joe Jingoli, a true benefactor of the city. Last summer it placed 280 kids.
An investigator from the state Attorney General’s Office was disturbed to find name-calling and potential bias among the problems needing to be addressed. He urged anyone experiencing that to report it to the police.
He surely was referring to possible racial bias, but we think there is also an economic bias in the way quite a few people disparage poorer municipalities for failing to triumph over the symptoms of having less income, wealth and education.
Sure, Atlantic City and many other municipalities in South Jersey aren’t considered as nice as well-off towns in the region. But if the affluent continue to choose the advantages of living together, they should try to be understanding and considerate of those who don’t have that choice and the towns they live in.