St. Joseph's Youth and Adults Win Commitments to Improve Drug Laws

Marvin Gives his testimony of growing up in Camden

March 12, 2010

Who said you can't change State Laws?

Despite the rain soaked ceiling and a tight meeting space, the faith community of St. Joseph's Pro-Cathedral showed up powerfully, 100+ strong, Tuesday night for an exciting meeting with not only NJ Assemblyman Angel Fuentes and Camden Police Inspector Mike Lynch, but two surprise guests NJ Assemblyman Whip Wilson and State Senator Donald Norcross, remember the old organizing principle, Power Respects Power!

Just after 6:00 PM our "targets" or "guests" arrived, CCOP's two first time meeting chairs, Teresa Reyes and Lydia Perez seized control of the meeting and beautifully led the next hour.  Both women had never chaired a meeting before and both commanded the evening. (meeting Photos Here)

To set the right tone, Marie took to the podium and led an excellent prayer, giving thanks for the safe meeting space to deal with such a dangerous issue as drug dealing.  Following the prayer were the introductions of our guest, Alexis, also a first time speaker, did a superb job letting the people know who we were able to invite.  Brining the opening to a close with great authority was Elvia, who read the CCOP credential and named just some of the groups in the room.

We shared who was in the room, the next and most important step was to be reminded WHY we were in the room.  Marvin took to the podium and shared a heart felt testimony of his own experience growing up in Camden.  "I've drank, smoked and risked my life because of Camden's ‘norms'. Camden is a dangerous place because of people like the drug dealers.  How can I think it's a safe city after my brother and I saw a man get shot to death in our neighborhood? We need to reinforce the idea that we are powerful and can stand up for the good of our community. There is a lot of good in Camden we have to fight to keep it."

With the story in mind, Kristin Prinn and Yo then shared eloquently the background and research that the St. Joseph's committee had conducted over the past 6 months.  This information matched with Marvin's story made our case for why the Drug Offense Restraining Order Law was broken and needed to be fixed so the Camden Police Department could actually use it.  

Rosa Ramirez and Msgr. Bob McDermott then stood up for the main purpose of the meeting, to get our State Law Makers to agree to fix DORO.  The following points are the responses to our questions:

  • Assemblymen Angel Fuentes and Whip Wilson agreed to co-sponsor a bill that will improve the DORO, making it a tool that the Camden Police Department can actually use.
  • State Senator Donald Norcross agreed to sponsor the same bill in the State Senate
  • All three agreed to work with the Camden Police Department and St. Joseph's/CCOP to ensure that the law is not just words but actually makes the changes that will allow Camden to keep drug dealers away from our neighborhoods
  • All three asked St. Joseph's/CCOP to help build the case for these new bills, by coming to Trenton, testifying before the public safety committee, and communicating with all of New Jersey's Legislators.

With applause and cheers the meeting came to an end with a meaningful and poetic prayer by Karla.  She brought all the work to a perfect completion, sending us forth to get to work with God's blessings.  Kudos to everyone young and the young at heart who made this action possible.  St. Joseph's/CCOP is back on the map and if we do the correct follow-up work, we are well on our way to changing a State Law, something that no one should take lightly.