Category Archives: 2015

N.J., Christie Sued Over Law that Allows Just Three Paramedic Providers Statewide

Virtua says the law gives Cooper exclusive control of emergency medical services in Camden.

Virtua has sued the state of New Jersey and Gov. Chris Christie in an effort to stop a new law that gives Cooper University Hospital exclusive control of emergency medical services in Camden.

On July 6, Christie signed legislation making three hospitals (Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, and University Hospital in Newark) exclusive providers of advanced life support services and mobile intensive care unit services in the regions where they are located.

But Virtua President and CEO Richard P. Miller argues that it’s been providing paramedic services to Camden for 38 years and has been “a standard bearer of quality for the state, with faster response times for the City of Camden residents than recommended through New Jersey Department of Health’s EMS Blue Ribbon Panel.”

He also said “Virtua paramedics are the only provider in the state approved to administer medications to assist with intubation in the field without a physician’s order, a reflection of their skill and expertise.”

Capital Health System is also a plaintiff in the suit and is suing the state because Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital has been granted the same permission in Hamilton, N.J.

Filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Law Division in Mercer County, the lawsuit alleges that the new law would “result in the piecemeal and inefficient delivery” of advanced life support services and disrupt Virtua’s and Capital Health’s long-standing relationship with the communities.

“Simply put, the Act will not create better coordination of services, contain the costs of [advanced life support] and [basic life support] services, or increase the quality of these services,” the lawsuit alleges.

A Cooper spokesperson declined to comment. Philip Lebowitz, an attorney for Virtua, did not return a request for comment.


Original Source:

Rutgers lands in top 50 schools for fastest growth of ‘sugar babies’

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Preceded by the University of Texas, Arizona State and New York University, Rutgers ranked 33rd out of 50 schools for the fastest growth of “sugar babies.”

Angela Bermudo, public relations manager at, the “world’s largest sugar daddy dating site” and a platform for “’mutually beneficial relationships,’ in which young women shower men with attention in exchange for “the finer things in life,” said the University’s presence on grew by 80 new sign-ups in 2014 or a 32.13 percent increase.

An interaction arranged through is not a traditional relationship, she said. Both players in the interaction arrange a relationship or structured relationship that fits into their lifestyles. “The average amount (sugar babies) receive is about $3,000 per month,” Bermudo said. “It could be a monetary amount or it could also be a combination of (paying for) rent, books and credit card fees.”

Bermudo attributed the rapid growth of “sugar babies” to the rising cost of education — since 2006, the number of student “sugar babies” multiplied by 12. Lawmakers continually say it is a priority for them to deal with the enormous student debt we have in the United States, but unfortunately, not enough is being done, she said. “We’re breaking records with how many students are applying to university and college, but unfortunately, as prices increase, students are struggling to find out how they’re going to afford it,” she said.

Original Source:

Hundreds of Rutgers ‘Sugar Babies’ turn to ‘Sugar Daddy’ websites to Pay off Student Loan Debt


Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for

January 29, 2015 at 9:01 AM, updated January 29, 2015 at 3:55 PM

NEW BRUNSWICK – While millionaires are increasingly in short supply in the Garden State, demand for wealthy benefactors among Rutgers University students is on the upswing. Or so says the company behind the dating website designed to bring the two together.

In 2014, the number of Rutgers University students who joined, whose backers tout it as the world’s largest “Sugar Daddy” dating site, rose by 32 percent, according to data released by the website.

Founded in 2006, the online dating website offers cash-strapped college students the chance to enter into what the company’s press kit says are “mutually beneficial” arrangements with more financially secure persons. Students are attracted to the website by the average $3,000 in monthly “allowances” provided by their matches.

A total of 317 Rutgers students have registered profiles with, a spokesperson for the site said. How many of those are active users is unclear. The number represents less than one percent of the university’s total population of enrolled students, which stands at 40,720 for the 2014-2015 school year.

Still, with last year’s growth, Rutgers has shot into the top-50 on the website’s annual ranking of fastest growing “Sugar Baby Schools,” which was released by the website last week.

The rising cost of tuition at Rutgers and universities nationwide, and the lack of congressional action on the issue of student debt, has led to a 42 percent increase in college student signups, according to SeekingArrangement CEO Brandon Wade.

Last July, the Rutgers’ board of governors voted unanimously to hike undergraduate tuition and fees 2.3 percent on the state university’s New Brunswick campus. Students attending the main campus in New Brunswick and Piscataway who live in New Jersey are paying $13,813 in tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 school year.

Calls for comment to the university were not immediately returned.

“While other countries seek to create opportunity and provide a better start for students by abolishing tuition fees or lowering them to reasonable amounts, Congress continues to ignore the problem,” Wade said. “The average debt is more than what most of these new graduates make in a year.”

The sheer amount of loan debt being carried by students may help explain why some students in the Garden State are turning to alternative funding methods to offset the cost of a higher education, says Barbara O’Neill, a Rutgers professor of financial resource management.

“People are anxious,” she says. “It’s like a sword hanging over them. If young adults don’t have the wherewithal to make payments on debt, it’s going to affect all of their decisions moving forward.”

New Jersey ranks in the top-10 in terms of highest amount of loan debt owed by higher education students. Higher education students who graduated from New Jersey institutions in 2013 owe an average of $28,109 in loan repayments, according to a study by the Project on Student Debt.

And many of those students are going into default. Recent studies by the U.S. Department of Education analyze the default rate of students in a three-year student cohort per each fiscal year. Of the 82,185 New Jersey students who had in fiscal year 2011 received a federal student loan, 8,741 defaulted within two years of the start of their repayment period.

That puts the the default rate for students attending four-year colleges in New Jersey at 10.6 percent, according to the most recently released numbers.

The national student loan default rate stands at 13.7 percent.

Vernal Coleman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @vernalcoleman. Find on Facebook.

Hope for Camden, or Just Another Pipe Dream?

Last updated: Friday, September 25, 2015, 11:59 PM
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2015, 7:45 PM

City Within a City.

Project Arizona.


Those are just a few of the Camden redevelopment schemes that have failed over the last 50 years in this tough old town, where empty promises are almost as common as empty lots.

I’m reminded of this Thursday as a blockbuster announcement – a $1 billion mixed-use downtown waterfront complex anchored by two sleek high-rises – lures me to the Adventure Aquarium.

I sigh as I remember how often I have sat in this very room, or others like it, scribbling madly as parades of politicos and assorted developers urge an audience to look beyond the Camden all around them and focus on the Camden of the future.

It’s always there, just over the horizon. Here it comes!

But years later, so many questions. Such as, what happened to the proposed World Trade Center in North Camden? What became of the Hilton Garden Inn announced for the waterfront in . . . was it 2007?

And where, oh, where, is the new supermarket that was supposed to be open by now on Admiral Wilson Boulevard?

As I wait for the latest announcement – a story that my colleague Allison Steele already had broken in Thursday’s Inquirer – I’m distracted from my cynical reveries by the exciting buzz in the room.

The sharks in a nearby tank appear to be swimming languidly, but the humans around me are energized – glad-handing, hugging, snapping selfies. The celebratory vibe is contagious, sort of like a contact high at a ’70s rock show, without the hallucinations.

Or could I be dreaming at this very moment?

“Let’s give Camden, N.J., a round of applause,” I hear an ebullient Mayor Dana L. Redd declare, before introducing “my friend Chris Christie.”

The Republican governor and presidential candidate appears – in person, not Skyped in from New Hampshire – and gets his own round of applause. And then another.

Evidently thrilled by the unaccustomed home-state adulation, Christie offers a paean to bipartisanship. Then he gives a shoutout to top Democrat George Norcross (whom Redd calls “a friend to everyone here”), without whom, it is understood, none of this would be happening.

And not only because he’s investing $50 million of his own money in the deal.

Christie is gracious, if perfunctory; he shakes some hands, disappears. Norcross does not speak, but he’s there, beaming, in the front row, as the celebrated architect and project master planner Robert A.M. Stern narrates the on-screen series of gorgeous renderings.

Stern describes “a new urban neighborhood” with 1.7 million square feet of office space, 325 units of housing, 27,000 square feet for retail, and a hotel. He talks about reconnecting the city’s street grid with the riverfront.

It suddenly occurs to me that this announcement is serious. For a national developer like Liberty Property Trust to announce a project like this in Camden is a big deal.

If the Malvern company can replicate some of the celebrated success of its Navy Yard redevelopment project, the Camden waterfront will be on its way to becoming not merely a destination for visitors, but a real neighborhood, as Stern says.

It will no longer be a somewhat forlorn collection of isolated, island-like structures – aquarium here, concert venue there, ballpark over yonder – marooned on a bleak tundra of parking.

Liberty expects to invest between $700 million and $800 million in the project by the end of the decade, says Liberty CEO William P. Hankowsky, who publicly thanks Norcross for making his firm aware of the development opportunity.

As the event breaks up, the mayor and governor are gone, but Norcross is available to the media.

He reassures us that past development schemes failed because they left out the neighborhoods, which are now included – beneficiaries of the county police department he pushed for and the charter schools he’s building.

People in Camden also will get a shot at “thousands of jobs” that will be created by companies attracted to the city by the Christie administration’s “Grow New Jersey” tax incentives.

Could it be that decades of subsidies and tax breaks – particularly on the waterfront and in downtown – might at last bear fruit? And for whom?

Norcross, Hankowsky, Redd, Christie and others at the announcement festivities insist that everyone in the city will benefit. Says the mayor, “This is Camden’s time.”

I’d like to believe that. I really would.

856-779-3845 @inqkriordan

Camden County Police Department struggling to keep officers


The Camden County Police Department, even as it has received praise for reducing violent crime in the city of Camden, has struggled to retain officers since it was formed two years ago.Nearly 120 officers – including large swaths of recruiting classes – have resigned or retired, making the department’s turnover one of the highest in the state.

The attrition threatens to be an obstacle for the county-run force in its quest to build a strong relationship between officers and residents. President Obama is expected to discuss that relationship Monday when he visits Camden.

Police officials outside the city say that high turnover can make a department prone to mistakes, and that it limits the ability of officers to connect with residents.

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County officials blame the turnover on some officers’ struggling to adjust from the police academy to Camden’s streets, historically ranked among the nation’s most violent. The county force, through its Metro Division, currently patrols only the city of Camden.Several current and former officers cite other reasons, including having to work extremely long hours and being disciplined for minor infractions such as wearing the wrong jacket or forgetting to salute a supervisor on the street.

They say the resignations are hurting morale.

“It’s something you’re not supposed to talk about,” said one veteran Camden officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the department. The officer said he knew of several officers in his squad departing for jobs in other towns this summer.

The resignations “are really jamming me up,” he said, alluding to staffing challenges they pose.

A Camden County spokesman said the department was limited by Civil Service laws and can’t require officers to serve for a set period of time.

Bill Wiley, who heads the police union for the rank-and-file, tied the turnover to new hires’ choosing different career paths, or wanting to be closer to their hometowns. Some are from more than 50 miles away.

“Going from the academy to working for the Camden police department is like going from college to the NFL,” he said. “It’s a very fast-paced environment. It’s not for everyone. Some find out late how hard it is.”

The number of officers – not including recruits in the current class at the police academy – stands at 359. If no other officers resign or retire before the class graduates, the overall number of officers will increase to nearly 400. The department’s ultimate goal is 411.

An analysis of the resignations shows that the average tenure of the officers who left was less than a year.

Of the 117 the county cited as departing, 27 retired and 90 resigned.

In Paterson, N.J., with a department of similar size to Camden, 15 officers resigned in the last two years. The Jersey City, N.J., department, double the size of Camden, says it had two. Atlantic City’s department says it had none.

Officers who resign can take up to a year to replace.

Paterson Police Chief Bill Fraher said background checks and the interview process generally take three to four months. Academy training there and in Camden takes an additional six months.

Fraher said that a department was more liable to make mistakes when new officers constantly arrive, and that it forces the remaining ones to shuffle around different positions.

“It’s like a juggling act,” he said. “It makes for a better, more efficient, more capable police department the more experience you have.”

Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The county force was created in May 2013 and replaced the disbanded city department in a move officials said was intended to slash costs and hire more officers.

Asked Friday about officers’ morale, Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen said: “The president’s coming. I’d say it’s pretty good.”

The White House said that Obama would speak at Camden’s police headquarters about efforts “to build trust between their department and the community they serve.”

In February, Thomson told a presidential panel that respectful interaction between officers and residents “is how one of the country’s most unhealthy cities rapidly reversed course and with each passing day has a more promising prognosis.” Last week, Mayor Dana Redd called the department a “national model” of policing.

Among the ranks, some are less upbeat about their work environment.

One former officer, who spent about a year in Camden before transferring to another department in New Jersey, said officers were written up for minor offenses such as forgetting to wear a hat or to salute a lieutenant while on foot patrol.

The officers’ complaints mirror those of some residents, who have voiced concerns about being ticketed for petty offenses such as riding a bicycle without a bell and loitering on street corners.

According to an individual familiar with the discipline process, each write-up goes into an officer’s personnel file, and can eventually lead to more serious discipline.

The former officer who left after about a year described working 16-hour shifts from 7 a.m. to almost midnight, and then being told to return in the early morning the next day.

“I was exhausted,” said the former officer, who asked not to be named because he said he didn’t want Camden officials coming after him at his new job. “Sometimes, honestly, I kind of wanted to sleep in the police parking lot.”

Other former Camden officers have transferred to departments in the vicinity of Camden, such as Gloucester City and Haddonfield. Those officers either did not return calls or declined to comment.

One potential disincentive may be pay, the former officer indicated, saying that he started at an amount several thousand less than what he was initially promised.

The starting salary on the Camden force, $31,407, is far lower than in some nearby towns, such as Pennsauken, where it is $47,000.

Colandus “Kelly” Francis, president of the Camden County chapter of the NAACP, who has kept track of the departures and is a longtime opponent of the county-run force, said the department had become a “revolving door.”

“It has a negative impact, because the most effective police officers are police officers who know the community and know the people,” he said.

“It’s just outrageous,” he said. “It’s outrageous what’s happened.”

mboren@phillynews.com856-779-3829 @borenmc

Michael Boren and Sam WoodSTAFF WRITERS


Camden police last year drew the highest number of excessive-force complaints in the state


Michael Boren / Inquirer Staff Writer,


Sunday, April 26, 2015

It was not long after sundown when a Camden County Police cruiser, its emergency lights off, stopped Malik Macklin in the alley behind his home in September 2013.

The sergeant was searching for a man with a gun and asked Macklin what he was doing. Macklin, a soft-spoken 21-year-old who did not match the suspect’s description, says he was confused about why police stopped him and did not respond.

Things quickly got out of hand, and two more officers arrived.

The sergeant said Macklin charged at him and a fight ensued. A jury was skeptical of the police account, and in a move rarely seen in such cases concluded the opposite: that the officers inflamed the situation.

The violent encounter unfolded four months after a new, county-run police force took over in Camden, with the promise of making its officers trusted community guardians, not just law enforcers.

Yet since that shift in May 2013, the number of excessive-force complaints has nearly doubled, from 35 after the takeover that year to 65 in 2014 — the most in the state. Even the combined total of Newark and Jersey City — the state’s largest cities, which have hundreds more officers — was below Camden’s.

Camden’s excessive force complaint numbers are higher than cities with much larger populations and more police officers.
“A rate of 0 percent when it comes to sustaining excessive-force complaints raises serious red flags about a lack of accountability.”
Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey

An analysis of four incidents for which The Inquirer interviewed those detained and reviewed hospital and police reports reveals a pattern in which stops usually made for minor infractions rapidly escalate. Three of the four individuals involved either filed complaints of excessive force or initiated related claims.

At least a dozen other individuals also have filed suits or tort claims against the county, alleging that its officers used excessive force or arrested them without just cause.

Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson says excessive-force complaints account for a tiny fraction — fewer than 1 percent — of the thousands of arrests each year. The American Civil Liberties Union is struck by another statistic: zero. That’s how many excessive-force complaints authorities in Camden have upheld against officers in recent years.

“It’s an abuse of power,” said Dana Robinson, 54, of Willingboro, who has sued the department.

Robinson walks with a limp from his arrest in July 2013, when officers took him down after he refused to leave a Camden fishing pier around curfew (police said Robinson, whose hip and eye socket were damaged, was trying to fight them; Robinson says he had put his hands behind his back). Others who filed suits have reported being punched in the face or kneed in the back.

Such incidents contrast with the image the Camden County Police Department, which this week will complete its second year, has sought to project, highlighting officers reading to children and handing out ice cream. Its efforts to improve community relations have drawn praise from the White House and Gov. Christie.

Dried blood covers the right side of Dana Robinson’s face at Cooper University Hospital in July 2013 after police arrested him at a fishing pier. His right hip also was injured during the incident.

“We train our officers to use the minimal amount of force necessary,” Thomson said. His department, which patrols just the city of Camden, replaced the former city force in a move officials said was intended to slash costs, hire more officers, and sweep criminals from the streets of a city ranked among the most violent in the country.

Thomson said he expects the number of excessive-force complaints to drop when his officers begin using body cameras, though he did not give a start date. In a letter last week to the ranks, he also announced “mentoring exercises” on correct police conduct, saying the use of minimal force “cannot be overemphasized.”

Typically, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office investigates an excessive-force complaint first. If it decides not to criminally charge an officer, the case goes to the Police Department, which investigates whether the officer followed procedure.

“We take the use of force very seriously. We take allegations of excessive force even more seriously,” Thomson said, adding that each one is investigated “thoroughly.”

Yet of the 65 excessive-force complaints last year, all 44 that authorities completed investigating were dismissed. (Most of them were “not sustained”, meaning there was insufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation.)

Malik Macklin’s face is swollen following an arrest by Camden County police officers in September 2013. Macklin, then 21, was stopped by a police sergeant looking for a robbery suspect. The sergeant later acknowledged that Macklin did not match the suspect’s description.

The remaining 21 were pending, according to the most recent data, obtained through a public records request. The Inquirer also reviewed excessive-force complaints dating to 2011, revealing that not one was sustained.

“A rate of 0 percent when it comes to sustaining excessive-force complaints raises serious red flags about a lack of accountability,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department slammed Newark police, calling the department “deeply dysfunctional” for upholding just one excessive-force complaint in six years.

The Justice Department says it is not investigating Camden. But the ACLU, whose documentation of excessive force and other issues helped spur the Newark probe, says it is planning to request data on two years’ worth of Camden police stops.

Andy McNeil, spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office, tied the rise in excessive-force complaints to an increase in the number of officers, from fewer than 300 in 2012 — when there were 41 complaints — to nearly 400 now. He said that in 2004, when the department was of similar size, there were 102 complaints. Camden Mayor Dana Redd declined to comment.

While the new force has won plaudits from residents for tamping down serious crime, some are irked by stops for petty offenses such as loitering and riding a bicycle without a bell. The number of tickets written for such offenses has risen to its highest level in years.

“They’re harassing people that aren’t doing anything,” said Richard Hicks Jr., 33, of Camden, who was charged with improper behavior in June 2014 after an officer alleged that Hicks cursed at him.

Hicks, who was taken to the ground and handcuffed, said he was waiting for a bus by an abandoned building when the officer approached him. The officer, in his report, said he told Hicks he could not stand there and Hicks responded with cursing. Hicks says he was punched in the face when he was on the ground.

Police say their “quality of life” stops help net serious criminals.

“What you really want is people to feel secure, not to feel that they’re being harassed,” said Howard Gillette, a retired Rutgers-Camden professor who has studied the city for years. Harassment causes “all sorts of potentials for misunderstanding and conflict,” he said. And, “if it becomes widely perceived that enforcement is harassment, then the whole system is undermined.”

An ambulance took Macklin to Cooper University Hospital, where he was handcuffed to a bed.

The former Camden High School football tight end who works temp jobs and has no criminal history was charged with aggravated assault on three officers. Officer Nicholas Rao wrote in his report that Macklin “punched, kicked, and pushed myself, and Sgt. Frett,” referring to William Frett, a 16-year veteran.

Yet in an internal affairs investigation, Frett told an investigator, according to a transcript of the interview, “He didn’t punch me or nothing like that.”

Frett told the investigator that he had grabbed Macklin “up high” and hip-slammed him and that Macklin was kicking and screaming as officers struggled to control him. Frett said he believed Macklin was on PCP.

Macklin said in an interview that he had smoked marijuana before the incident, but was not on PCP. He said the officers punched him repeatedly in the face and ribs. “I was screaming, yelling for help,” Macklin, now 23, said.

Still, it was his word against the officers’. Internal affairs and the Prosecutor’s Office concluded they had not used excessive force.

“There was no evidence of wrongdoing by any officer,” said McNeil, the prosecutor’s spokesman.

So when Macklin decided to contest his charge in court, his mother was doubtful.

“I thought he didn’t have a chance,” Malika Macklin, 45, said.

“There was a lot of fear about how credible his testimony was going to sound,” said his public defender, Meg Butler.

That type of fear prevented Shaila Ballance, 39, from pursuing her son’s case further.

His left foot was disfigured when a Camden police cruiser ran over it as he ran from the pursuing car in April 2014. Doctors at Cooper called the injury “foot degloving,” because so much skin was ripped off. Police said the car hit him after he slipped.

Shaila Ballance’s teenage son’s left foot was severely disfigured when a Camden police cruiser drove over it as he ran from the pursuing car in April 2014.

Saadiq Ballance, then 16, needed surgery. He was charged with resisting arrest and loitering to commit a drug offense, the latter of which his mother said was dropped.

Saadiq Ballance said that police came up as he played cards outside with friends at night and that he ran because he heard screeching tires from a car he could not see and feared someone was about to be shot.

Yet when his mother took the case to a lawyer, she said he told her: “You most likely won’t win.”

“For him to feel it was a losing battle,” Shaila Ballance said, “it just kind of discouraged me.”

To Malik Macklin, prosecutors offered a deal: A year in jail. Or two years of probation, and no jail.

Macklin, unwilling to have a felony on his record, turned down both.

In the internal affairs investigation after Macklin filed a complaint, Frett, the sergeant, said that Macklin “had a crazy look in his eyes” and that police were fighting “for dear life.”

Jurors doubted that account.

“In my mind, that’s not how it went down,” juror Peter Heinbaugh, 54, of Gloucester Township, said in an interview.

Stephanie Aaronson/
Camden County Police Chief J. Scott Thomson sits in a meeting room in the police department headquarters on Thursday, October 2, 2014.

Heinbaugh said the officers gave conflicting testimony about how close Macklin was to Frett before Macklin allegedly lunged at him.

“It escalated, we thought, more due to the actions of the police officers rather than Mr. Macklin,” Heinbaugh said. “And the injuries kind of support that. There were just a couple scrapes and bruises on the officers, but there were cuts and blood and things like that on Macklin.”

The jurors deliberated a few hours, then returned with the verdict.

Not guilty.

“It was amazing,” said Allen Beverly, 57, a family friend of the Macklins. “Essentially told the cops they were wrong.”

Macklin, who is not suing the department, says he now rarely walks out the back door to the alley where he was arrested.

“I’m still a little angry,” he said, adding that the 2013 arrest had changed his impression of the officers. “I thought they was good guys.” 856-779-3829 @borenmc

How Giving Apartments To Homeless Actually Saves Money In The End

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Posted: 02/26/2015 9:06 am EST Updated: 09/17/2015 6:59 pm EDT

A county in New Jersey is aiming to put roofs over heads in order to fight homelessness — and save some of its taxpayers’ money in the process.

Officials in Camden announced on Monday that the county will be providing homes to some residents with no stable shelter, the South Jersey Times reported. A partnership between the state, the county’s freeholder board, the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and other community groups, the program will house 50 people throughout the next two years using federal funds.

The initiative — which may expand after its initial run — will benefit from Camden County’s Homelessness Trust Fund, which is contributing $100,000. Participants for the program will be selected by the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, which will rely on doctors and nurses to identify homeless individuals they see routinely in their care.

The state will cover rental costs to house participants in apartments throughout the region, according to Charles Richman, deputy commissioner at New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. But those who do have a job will contribute a portion of their income to be part of the program.


homeless taking shelter in the lobby of the Camden County administration building

“Many [homeless] people have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lives, and then you put them in a room in a shelter with 100 other people — that’s going to be a terrifying experience for them — and then you expect them to stay sober or battle their addictions in that environment,” Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, chief executive officer of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, told the South Jersey Times. “Only about 15 percent of them make it through. It just doesn’t work.”

While just a small fraction may make it through using more standard methods, Brenner said the Housing First approach — which Camden County is executing — has about a 90 percent success rate.

Housing First — endorsed by the Obama administration— prioritizes an immediate need for housing over other services, such as mental health or addiction treatment, as the National Alliance to End Homelessness points out. The approach follows the idea that housing someone first and foremost will help prevent further periods of homelessness and significantly reduce the time that person is left unsheltered.

What’s more, the approach may save New Jersey residents money.

Housing First has a financially sound track record in communities that have implemented its approach. In Utah — which implemented the strategy statewide — the approach has reduced the state’s chronic homelessness by 72 percent since it was first executed about a decade ago, as NationSwell reported last month. A homeless person in Utah who relies on shelters and soup kitchens to survive costs taxpayers about$19,2000, while providing such individuals with permanent housing and case management costs a mere $7,800.

Last year, researchers studying chronically homeless people in Florida had similar findings. Taxpayers saved about $21,000 per homeless person every year by providing stable housing to those without none, as well as a case manager to supervise their circumstances. Expenses like emergency room visits and jail stays — which come out of the public’s wallet — far outweighed the cost to provide a home and basic social services.

Brenner is confident those same fiscal benefits will come to Camden County, which counted 654 homeless individuals within its borders in a January 2014 survey.

“It saves money in the long run, because [homeless people are] not in hospitals and emergency rooms, and they’re not in jail — all of which takes up a lot of resources,” he told the South Jersey Times. “A lot of these people are re-admitted to [Cooper University Hospital] over and over again, in the emergency room, for things that you wouldn’t need to be in the hospital for, if you had a place to live.”

A Bold Plan to Remake Camden’s Waterfront



SEPT. 29, 2015


CAMDEN, N.J. — Plans for a major mixed-use waterfront development represent the latest step in efforts to rehabilitate this city that not long ago was rated as America’s most dangerous.

The development of offices, apartments and retail space, totaling 1.7 million square feet, would be built along the Delaware River starting in the fall of 2016, according to plans announced by Camden’s mayor, Dana L. Redd, and the developer Liberty Property Trust last week.

The project, estimated to cost about $1 billion, would be the biggest private sector investment in the city’s history, and the latest in a series of corporate developments and relocations that are beginning to create jobs and drive down the city’s notoriously high rates of crime and poverty.
John Gattuso, a senior vice president at Liberty, said the company is in “very serious conversations” with parties who are interested in investing in the development but that no financial commitments have been made so far. Potential participants would apply for tax credits with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and, if the credits were approved, would then agree with Liberty to invest in the project, Mr. Gattuso said.


Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey announced last week that Liberty Property Trust is planning a $1 billion transformation of a 16-acre swath of the waterfront in Camden. The mixed-use development is scheduled to be complete by 2019. Credit Mel Evans/Associated Press
The development, scheduled for completion in 2019, will occupy 16 acres directly south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to Philadelphia, in an area that is now a parking lot and adjoined by a minor-league baseball stadium and a public aquarium.

The plans include replacing Camden’s current low-rise profile from the Philadelphia side of the river with four office towers, 325 residential units, a 120-room hotel, 27,000 square feet of retail space and parking garages for 5,000 cars, city and company officials said.

William P. Hankowsky, chief executive of Liberty Property Trust, predicted that investors would be attracted to the development because of recent declines in crime and poverty, the closure of failing public schools and several corporate relocations.

“We’re going to be able to create a sense of place that will allow companies to attract a future work force,” Mr. Hankowsky told about 300 guests at the project’s announcement.

Coming arrivals in Camden include Holtec International, a processor of spent nuclear fuel, and the Philadelphia 76ers basketball franchise’s practice facility, both scheduled to open in 2016.

City officials say such moves, under the second-term Mayor Redd, are beginning to turn around a city that has been a national symbol for economic decline and urban blight.

According to official statistics, violent crime is down 7 percent so far this year after double-digit declines in the last two years, while the poverty rate, though still high, dropped to 36.5 percent in 2014 from 42.6 percent in 2013. Robert Corrales, the city’s business administrator, attributed the lower crime rate to more police officers on the street and an emphasis on community policing under a new county-run force.

The city’s renewal program includes the continuing demolition of about 600 vacant or derelict buildings that have scarred neighborhoods and attracted drug dealers. The demolition has been paid for by $7 million in proceeds from a bond sale that was enabled by the city’s first investment-grade rating — BBB+ from Standard & Poor’s — for 15 years, Mr. Corrales said.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said the changes were allowing Camden to turn its back on a grim reputation. “Camden is no longer America’s most dangerous city,” he said at the announcement event. “It’s where families can come to live and work and do business.”


Renderings of Liberty Property Trust’s proposed Camden Waterfront project. Credit Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Mitchell Marcus, managing director in the Philadelphia office of Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate investment company, said the new development would help the local economy and would effectively expand Philadelphia’s central business district across the river into New Jersey.

Mr. Marcus said the project, named simply The Camden Waterfront, would be helped by its large scale, which will attract major corporations, and by its proximity to highways and public transit in the form of the Patco rail line that connects Camden with Philadelphia and suburban communities in southern New Jersey.

“It’s a boost for the region. It supports new quality inventory coming in. It brings scale,” he said.

With its offices and accompanying retail and restaurant space, the development will provide the “work” and “play” components of the “live-work-play” formula commonly sought by developers. But it is less certain that it will meet the “live” requirement because of continuing challenges in Camden’s public schools, Mr. Marcus said.

Still, the new development can succeed even if the schools don’t turn around, he said. “If you get the retail to follow the employment base, I think that would be sufficient to support it. I’m not sure the school system plays into that.”

The city’s turnaround has been spurred by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, a state agency that provides tax incentives for companies to relocate to, or remain in, economically challenged locations.

The tax incentives, equivalent to a project’s capital cost, are payable over 10 years, and they are dependent on capital investment and job creation. Since its inception in 2013, the program has stimulated investment of about $1 billion and created or retained 7,600 jobs in Camden, the economic development authority said.

The incentives are also expected to be available to tenants in the waterfront development, said Timothy J. Lizura, president of the agency.

Mr. Lizura said the project showed that the city was finally turning the corner after decades of economic pain.

“It’s definitely a new day in Camden,” he said. “For 20 years, we’ve tried to redevelop that city, and we finally have the traction between a very competent mayor’s office, the county police force, all the educational reforms going on, and now the corporate interest. It really is the right ingredient for changing a paradigm which has been a wreck.”

A version of this article appears in print on September 30, 2015, on page B10 of the New York editionwith the headline: A Bold Plan to Remake Camden’s Waterfront.

In Sheridan case, new reasons for doubt amid stunning incompetence | Moran


Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial BoardBy Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated April 14, 2015 at 2:25 PM

House Fire 2 Killed
FILE- In this Sept. 29, 2014 file photo, a Montgomery Township police officer sits in front of the partially burned home of John and Joyce Sheridan in Montgomery Township, N.J. The Somerset County prosecutor’s office found that John Sheridan killed his wife and himself, a conclusion the family has challenged. (Mel Evans)

A dead man accused of murder never gets his day in court. Guilty or not, he is damned for all eternity, unable to answer the charges.

John Sheridan, a confidante of New Jersey governors and other elites over two generations, is one such man.

Sixth months ago, prosecutors say, he snapped just before dawn one morning and stabbed his wife Joyce repeatedly with a carving knife. He then stabbed himself as he poured gasoline around their bedroom in a wealthy suburb of Somerset County, and threw a match on it.

But we should ask ourselves: Did he really do it?

Not because Sheridan was a powerful man. And not because his four sons, one of whom is the top attorney for the state’s Republican Party, can’t accept this verdict.

We should question this conclusion because it is built on flimsy evidence that any respectable defense attorney could swat down in an afternoon. This was amateur hour in a prosecutor’s office that rarely handles murder investigations, and clearly botched this one.

If John Sheridan had lived, it’s impossible to imagine a jury convicting him knowing what we now know.

Put it another way: If John Sheridan had lived, it’s impossible to imagine a jury — any jury — convicting him, knowing what we now know.

Newly released documents and a lengthy and exclusive interview with Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano point to several key weaknesses in the case.

Prosecutors still can’t find the weapon they say Sheridan used to kill himself. They have no credible motive, and Soriano admits it.

The DNA evidence prosecutors used to link Sheridan to his wife’s murder weapon evaporates under closer examination: In fact, the marker they found is present in one of every two white men, according to a State Police report given to the Star-Ledger by the Sheridan family that had not been released to the public.

It gets worse.

No one dusted for fingerprints outside the master bedroom to see if an intruder entered the house through one of four unlocked doors.

The key wound to Sheridan’s neck, which nicked his jugular and is listed as a cause of death, was not made by the carving knife that killed his wife. Two autopsies concluded that only a narrow-gauge weapon could leave the mark.

But prosecutors didn’t realize that until a renowned pathologist hired by the Sheridan family produced the second autopsy. A full week after the killings, after the crime scene had been closed, investigators returned to the house to search for such a weapon, according to both Soriano and the Sheridans.

Asked how his crew could have missed such basic evidence, Soriano said that investigators had assumed the carving knife had killed both husband and wife.

They realized the mistake only after the autopsy that was paid for by the Sheridans. “That was the first time we were told that the knives we had could not have caused the wound,” Soriano says.

What they found was a blob of melted metal, which their report suggests was the narrow-gauged weapon. It turned out to be a mixture of zinc and aluminum, according to State Police. Even the prosecutor, Soriano, concedes that he has no clue if it really was once a weapon.

“Knives are not made of zinc and aluminum,” he says. “Letter openers could be.”

When pressed, he wouldn’t stand by that theory, either. Most letter openers have dull edges, and Sheridan’s wounds included slices as well as punctures.

The metal might have been a harmless piece of hardware from the armoire that fell on Sheridan during the fire, Soriano concedes.

“I don’t know what it is,” he said, finally. “It could have been anything.”

Two months after the killings, an insurance adjuster came to inspect the home and found a bag full of jewelry in a closet off the master bedroom. Investigators had somehow missed it.

So what if that bag contained a weapon, or drugs, or some other clue? Isn’t this more evidence of flat-out incompetence?

“I’m not going there,” Soriano says.

Imagine being a defense attorney in this case. No weapon in John Sheridan’s death. No motive, no history of violence in a 47-year marriage, no evidence of debt or drug use or scandal of any sort.

Bogus DNA evidence. No fingerprints check on possible intruders. And evidence of incompetence.

Michael Critchley, one of the state’s top defense attorneys, said Sheridan would never be convicted on such weak evidence.

“If he had lived, he never would have been indicted,” Critchley says. “They don’t have many homicides in Somerset County. This is not a skill set they have had an opportunity to develop.”

Possibly correct

Is it possible this was a murder-suicide? Even Mark Sheridan, while he doesn’t believe it, concedes the answer is yes.

There is no evidence of an intruder in the home that morning. Cash and jewelry were left behind in plain sight. And several people close to Sheridan say he was acting unusual in the days before the deaths, upset by a pending report that was critical of the cardiac unit at Cooper Health System in Camden, where Sheridan served as CEO.

George Norcross, the chairman of Cooper’s board, says the report was a routine problem, not a crisis. Sheridan was upset, he said, but not to the point of a mental breakdown.

“I received an email from John the night before,” Norcross says. “It was business-like, a reasoned response to something I had written to him, and it’s hard to conceive that someone would have gone from that to an enraged person who committed murder. I always was, and continue to be, skeptical. I’m not sure this will ever be solved.”

Even Soriano doesn’t go so far as to say the pending report caused Sheridan to crack. The prosecutor’s seven-page summary of the case implies that, but when pressed, Soriano again backpedaled.

“What we tried to do is gather all the relevant evidence,” he says. “I don’t know what else was going on in his life.”

In the face of this uncertainty, and the big gaps in the evidence, the obvious answer would have been for Soriano to admit that the facts lead to no definite conclusion.

The possibilities are infinite. A murder-suicide. A burglary gone bad. A drug dealer who came for Matt, a son who lived at the home and was arrested for cocaine possession shortly after the killings. A work crew that did work on the home recently, and might have seen the ample stock of painkillers Joyce Sheridan had after a recent surgery.

But prosecutors don’t like to leave a murder unresolved. This was by far the most high-profile case to come Soriano’s way during his nearly five years as prosecutor. Before he was appointed to this job, he had served only as a municipal prosecutor handling minor cases.

And in the interview, he says that it was a priority for him to reassure the public.
Within a week of the killings, he announced there was no danger to the general public, suggesting he had already concluded this was a murder-suicide.

“Early on, no doubt about it, we concluded it was murder-suicide,” Soriano says. “There are some who say, ‘You made your mind up and shut down.’ It’s the opposite. I challenged our detectives and assistant prosecutors to go out and find the person who did this. And we tried.”

At times, Soriano sounded like a nervous rookie who didn’t want to stand behind his own conclusion. That would explain why he didn’t release even basic information in this case, probably in defiance of open records laws. Secrecy like that is a refuge for the incompetent.

In the interview, Soriano emphasized that it was the medical examiner who ruled that it was a murder-suicide, not him. “The truth is we supply him with information,” he said.

So I asked if he is personally convinced it was a murder-suicide. After several seconds of silence I found shocking, he finally squeaked out a low-volume answer: “I am.”

The medical examiner in this case, Dr. Eddy Jean Lilavois, inspires no confidence either.

He resigned from the medical examiner’s office in New York City in 1995 after a similar complaint, when he concluded the death of a 3-year-old was a homicide due to blunt-force trauma, leading police to suspect the father. Weeks later he changed the cause of death to a brain aneurism without notifying the family, police or prosecutors, the New York Times reported in 1997.

Lilavois didn’t return phone calls to discuss the Sheridan case or his history.

A family’s wounds

The final chapter in this story is not yet written. The Sheridans intend to challenge this conclusion in court, so we will all hear much more about the evidence in this case before it is finally closed.

For the time being, this family is stuck in a deep circle of hell, grieving its loss without being able to put it away and accept it. Peter Sheridan, a federal district court judge in Newark, is John’s brother.

‘It’s just really hard. You wake up in the morning and you’re thinking about John and Joyce and how unbelievable this story is,” he says. “And then you try to move through the day and you can only go a couple of hours, and John and Joyce come into your mind, and you lose track of what you’re focused on. It’s just really hard, and the boys are going through the same issue.”

Mark, 41, is the point man for the four sons in this fight. A partner at Squire Patton Boggs, he is a high-priced lawyer who handles the key fights for the Republican Party on issues like legislative redistricting.

“I’m the one with the financial wherewithal to have this fight, and I’ve dealt with prosecutors before,” he says.

His goal in the lawsuit is to change the official conclusion in his father’s death certificate so that the manner of death is “undetermined” rather than murder-suicide. The family is well off, and his father’s life insurance payments do not hinge on the cause of death, Mark says.

“This has been excruciating,” he says. “You don’t get more than a few hours away from it even when you think you’re going to have a normal day. Not just to lose both of our parents in such a horrible way, but to have to fight the people who are supposed to be investigating the deaths.”

When the target of an investigation is dead, and cannot answer, the prosecutor in effect becomes the judge and jury as well. Soriano seems to have missed that. The seven-page summary he released on March 27 is full of unsupported innuendo about motive and DNA evidence, as if he’s trying to score points with spin.

At one meeting with the family, Soriano conceded he didn’t really know what happened in that bedroom, according to Soriano and two members of the Sheridan family who were present.

“I meant that in the literal sense,” Soriano said in a subsequent interview. “I wasn’t there. … The only two people we believe right now who know what occurred were deceased.”

Amen to that. It’s a shame that Soriano could not have left it there. His goal from the start was to close the case. He seems to have forgotten that his job is to find the truth.

Tom Moran may be reached at or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find The Star-Ledger on Facebook.