Camden Wants Business Curfew to Stop Drugs

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #688)
Politics & Advocacy

Camden, New Jersey, is about to force businesses to close down during late-night hours in a bid to reduce street-level drug dealing. An earlier version of the plan targeted only take-out restaurants, but the current version would allow only gas stations and bars to stay open, and the gas stations could only sell gas, not food or any other items.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]In remarks reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, city officials said the earlier version of the plan was tabled over fears it discriminated against the take-out restaurant. Under the new proposal, McDonalds and the local Chinese take-out would have to play by the same rules, they said.

"When you get into exemptions, where do you stop?" said City Attorney Mark Riondino. "That's where we got into problems" with the earlier version.

The move is a bid to reduce drug dealing in the poverty-stricken, crime-ridden city. Neighborhood leaders complained that some late-night take-outs attract more people seeking drugs than Chinese food or fried chicken, especially along Mount Ephraim Avenue, in one of the city's tougher neighborhoods.

Police say that drug customers from neighboring towns often become crime victims near the late-night establishments. They cited two cases of car theft at gun or knife-point in recent weeks in the 1500 block of Mount Ephraim Avenue, where a Crown Fried Chicken and a handful of Chinese take-outs have late-night hours.

But the owner of Crown Fried Chicken, which is open 24 hours, said the proposed business curfew was bad news. "This is very bad for us, for the business, and very bad for Camden," said Ali Khan.

When asked if crime was a problem outside his restaurant, Khan acknowledged that the streets of Camden can be tough, but said it wasn't his restaurant's fault. "There are a lot of situations in Camden," he said. "Before Crown Chicken, was there no crime, no shootings?"

The Camden City Council will vote on the proposal Tuesday, but it's difficult to see how curbing businesses in a recession-wracked city is going to help anything.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


kickback (not verified)

In certain neighborhoods, the users and dealers usually make a presence after dark.  They don`t operate on banker`s hours. How could legalization, regulation and taxes divert this madness into more civilized activity? The "Drug War" is the next economic bubble to burst. The status quo is unsustainable. The Govn`t is broke. Whether people realize it or not, we are on the verge of full blown anti-drug war reform. The Cannabis movement is overgrowing the government. The Cannabis Tsunami is within sight. Those drug war profiteers who are in denial had better learn how to swim. The "establishment" is up against powers that are unknown to it. They are in full panic mode. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win. The time is not in the future, it is now. The people far outnumber the politicians. The power of the people is the governments worst nightmare. Taking a sledgehammer to the status -quo one day at a time. True Americans have never buckled under forced tyranny, the same is true today. Vote the prohibitionists out in 2012. Even flip-floppin` Obama obviously. Once the government bubble goes bust here real soon, the drug war money will be gone. History will judge drug prohibition in a cancerous light. Racism, fear, ignorance and prejudice will headline future articles of America`s failed drug war experiment. If you can't see the drug war  wall collapsing, then it`s because you ain`t paying attention. If you don`t vote, then why are you complaining?

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 2:39am Permalink

The late drug dealing is messing things up for legitimate businesses, so the answer close the legitimate businesses?!

Thu, 06/16/2011 - 1:45pm Permalink
Frank Fulbrook (not verified)

Since 1998, I've been leading the opposition to this ill-conceived, irrational late-night business curfew ordinance in Camden, NJ. We successfully sued the City of Camden in 1998 and 2006 to stop a similar ordinance. Now, our new mayor, Dana Redd, is attempting the same stupid idea for the third time.

          About 60 businesses would be negatively impacted by the current ordinance. Many of them would be put out of business completely if this ordinance were to be adopted.

          In Camden, hypocrisy has no limit!  In April, Mayor Redd declared that her administration would be "business friendly."  Her ordinance would be very friendly to all of the 24-hour gas stations and convenience stores located just outside Camden. Is that what she meant?

          Since the late 1980s, Camden has had about 150 open-air drug markets in our 9 square miles. Population: 80,000.  In 2006, as part of our lawsuit, a Rutgers-Camden Criminal Justice professor studied six months of Camden Police crime reports. Her study showed that Camden's late night crime occurred mainly in residential neighborhoods, not in the well-lit, well-patrolled commercial areas where the targeted restaurants are located. So, the curfew ordinance was completely irrational. In 2007, the City withdrew that ordinance just before the scheduled trial. The City Attorney advised the City Council that we would probably win at trial.

          On June 14, after 15 people spoke for or against the business curfew ordinance, the City Council tabled it for further study. They know they'll be sued immediately if they pass the ordinance.

          Some things are worth fighting for, including economic freedom and a rational drug policy. If you don't think drug prohibition for all ages is a failed, racist, anti-urban policy, come to Camden, New Jersey. The proof of policy failure can be seen everywhere here.

          -- Frank Fulbrook


Thu, 06/16/2011 - 5:01pm Permalink

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