Rising murder rate in Camden

February 19, 2008 3:41:43 PM PST
Last year at this time, Camden had zero murders, this year - 16. "Gun violence is a regional issue. It's not an issue that affects communities in isolation; it's an issue that affects us all in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, in Delaware, and all our bordering states," Camden County Prosecutor Joshua Ottenberg said.

With Philadelphia as a backdrop, several South Jersey prosecutors and police officers highlighted the problem of illegal guns flowing into New Jersey from other states.

"We've been doing tracing, as well, similarly we are finding maybe about a quarter of the guns that have been used in crimes have been coming from Pennsylvania, but they've been coming from other states as well," Cumberland County Prosecutor Ronald Cassela said.

Camden County prosecutor Josh Ottenberg illustrated his point by displaying a Taurus .38 special that was manufactured in Brazil. In 1986, it was sold legally in a Philadelphia gun shop. In 2006, it was used to shoot and wound DRPA police officer Matt Gorman. Police returned fire and the gunman was killed.

While the problem is statewide, gun violence is acute in Camden, which has had 16 murders this year, all but one involving firearms.

According the ATF, 202 guns were recovered in Camden last year. 117 of them were traceable, and 25 percent of them came from Pennsylvania.

Last month, the New Jersey legislature past some tougher gun laws.

The new laws enacted upgrade an illegal hand gun possession charge from a third to second degree crime, which most likely guarantees jail time. There is now a specific law dealing with interstate gun trafficking and any lost or stolen handguns much be reported to police in 36 hours.