Camden, a City of Angels

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 6 | Posted Jan. 26, 2011

Share this Story:

Yellow Jacket reaches his hand under his waistband like he’s pulling a gun.

The women shield in front of me. I ask Teddy Bear if she gets scared. “No,” she says. “But I’m always praying.”

The shouts escalate. They advise that ‘duck’ means hit the pavement, ‘shotgun’ means to scatter. They also tell me that should shots ring out, the best place to hide is behind the front of a car, since handgun bullets can’t slice through a car engine.

But Zeek talks Yellow Jacket down.

All this goes down a few feet from a giant Camden Police Mobile Command Post trailer.

The trailer’s empty.

“An argument leads to problems, and problems can lead to death,” says Zeek, 41. A thin scar runs from the right edge of Zeek’s nose to his lip. He got stabbed in the face while patrolling the Long Island Railroad last year.

“See how bad this is? Wait until we leave,” he says. “Wait until next summer.”

A driver in a passing car yells, “Go, Angels, go!”

We head in the opposite direction, passing a cell phone place, a pizza joint and a man who theatrically fake-laughs. Later, a crackhead will taunt, “Where’s my Domino’s pizza at?” They get called ‘Charlie’s Angels.’

“You see that?” asks Life. “They laugh at us but we don’t care.”

Zeek shrugs. “It’s the drug dealers that don’t like us,” he says. “We’re on their turf.”

A Camden cop walks by and slips into a Rainbow NYC shop. Inside, he’s chatting with the shop girls at the register counter. “Nope, I can’t comment, can’t say anything,” he says before I even get to ask him a question, like why he’s hanging out in a women’s clothing store while on duty. “I know, we’re all terrible, right?” he asks. Later and the next day, the same officer sports a bright crossing guard vest and directs traffic, even though official Camden announcements stated that remaining Camden police officers can only respond to violent and escalated situations.

On almost every corner, Guardian Angel recruitment posters are half-torn off lamp posts. Zeek tapes them back together.

We split up. A few Angels want to stop in the McDonald’s around the corner for a break from the cold.

Inside, Terrell Wynne, 39, is polishing off a couple hot apple pies. He recognizes the red jackets. “You gotta have a clean record?” he asks.

Not necessarily. Interest and free time are hard enough to come by, so the Angels do accept people with records, though generally they won’t enlist violent offenders.

“Twenty years ago, it used to be nice [here],” sighs Wynne. “Now, I won’t even walk around.”

We head back to meet up with the other half of the small crew. While we were in McDonald’s, they helped police apprehend a man who was shooting heroin in the bathroom. We also missed the real action: Someone signed up to be the first Angel in the Camden chapter.

“It’s been on my mind a while,” says 23-year-old Jose Soto, a telecommunications professional. “Since I’ve seen them come through Kensington, I’ve been doing a little research.”

Prev| Page: 1 2 3 |Next
Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend


Comments 1 - 6 of 6
Report Violation

1. Anonymous said... on Jan 26, 2011 at 12:20PM

“I am not very name is sean, 26.....and you interviewed me in front of the transportation center, I live outside the city, and you told me that I would be in the article. So what is the reason my thoughts and I are not in the article? Were my thoughts and opinions not good enough for you to put into it? If you had an excess of people and comments, then you should not have taken my interview.....I am really offended that you took my statement/opinion/thoughts and didnt even give me one cheap line in a free newspaper. Funny thing is this whole time you really had me thinking about joining the Angels. Since I was interested because of you, I no longer am considering it,the city of Camden and the Angels have two less recruits, myself and my wife. I guess the Angels have you to thank. For future articles, you should never tell a person that they would be in the news article when you aren't sure if they will be. That is just mean, and so are you.”

Report Violation

2. Anonymous said... on Jan 26, 2011 at 02:56PM

“to the previous commenter: well, that is unfortunate that you would give up helping your city because a reporter didn't quote you.”

Report Violation

3. SEL793 said... on Jan 27, 2011 at 01:11AM

“Waaa waaa waaa. Maybe your comments sucked.”

Report Violation

4. Anonymous said... on Jan 27, 2011 at 11:09AM

“Hey, I can understand your frustration of being told you would be in the article and then you are not. It definitely should've been worded differently.
On the other hand, if you are going to let words of one person sway the way you make your decisions in life, like not to become an Guardian Angel because of that person, then I don't know that I would feel safe around you whether an Angel or not. So many people say so much, call others names, fear the unknown, complain, but yet don't step up to the plate and fight for safer neighborhoods for all citizens. Maybe the Angels are better off without you since they get called names all of the time, people say they will join and then never show. Then you have the ones such as Life, Third Rail and High Tower who are living the value of safety in neighborhoods and are willing to help out no matter what.”

Report Violation

5. Where'd they go? said... on Feb 10, 2011 at 10:05PM

“Ironic how I saw the Guardian Angels in Camden everyday the first 2 weeks of their 3 month commitment, (usually with a news crew or camera), but since this story was published, I have yet to see them anywhere! Think you can do another cover story on them to get them back out there? No cameras= no Angels. Camden is being lied to.”

Report Violation

6. jesus said... on Mar 26, 2011 at 12:58PM

So the face book updates every week are fake.”


(HTML and URLs prohibited)