In a city with a record number of homicides—most of them gun related—the state attorney general on Thursday announced a two-day program aimed at getting the weapons off the streets.
During a press conference, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said a two-day gun buyback program will be held in Camden on Dec. 14 and 15.
The state-led “Guns for Cash” event will take place at two Camden churches—Antioch Baptist Church at 690 Ferry Ave. and Higher Ground Temple at 203 Vine St.
Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on those dates, Camden County residents can turn in up to three firearms of any type with no questions asked and receive up to $250 per weapon. Police officers will be stationed at the two churches to collect and secure the guns. The Attorney General’s Office is paying for the gun buyback with forfeiture funds obtained by its Division of Criminal Justice.
The $100,000 gun buyback program is a cooperative effort between the Attorney General’s Office, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, the Camden Police, the faith-based community and other stakeholders.
During the press conference at the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, Chiesa pointed to the death of a 52-year-old Camden City man earlier this year as an example of the toll on innocent lives exacted by gun violence. The man was walking home from a neighborhood convenience store with his wife on a Sunday evening when he was struck in the chest by a stray bullet.
The fatal shooting of 25-year-old Clementon resident Dontae Perkins in Camden on Wednesday evening brought the city's 2012 homicide total to 64. The previous record was 58 in 1995.
Of the 64 homicides in Camden this year, 53 were gun-related, according to the prosecutor's office (one was a police-involved shooting.)
“As we all recognize, there are too many guns on the street and too many people dying as a result of gun violence—not only in Camden County, but throughout New Jersey,” Chiesa said. “The gun buyback campaign we’re announcing today is part of a broad-based, continuing effort by my office, working closely with our law enforcement partners and community stakeholders, to change that. If we can save one life through this program, it’s money well spent.”
'Out of the reach of criminals'
“This initiative offers the opportunity to remove from the street weapons that have the potential to be used against an innocent person in Camden County,” said Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk. "Easy access to firearms is one of the factors that has made Camden such a deadly city this year, and I welcome an initiative that will put guns out of the reach of criminals."
“This gun buyback is an important part of the overall effort to keep firearms off the street and reduce violent crime in our city,” said Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson. “It only stands to reason that taking guns out of circulation is going to help make neighborhoods safer.”
In addition to publicizing the gun buyback campaign through Thursday's press conference, Chiesa explained, the two-day “Guns for Cash” effort will be promoted through local radio, newspaper, bus transit and other advertising.
Merchants in Camden will be urged to place posters announcing the program in their storefronts, and members of the clergy will be given palm cards to distribute to their parishioners. The Congress of Resident & Community Based Organizations, a coalition that works with Camden City officials to improve the quality of life in Camden, will also assist in getting the word out.
Chiesa reminded residents that New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, and that unlawfully possessing a gun is a second-degree offense punishable by five to 10 years in state prison.
Residents with questions about the gun buyback program can call the Attorney General’s Citizen Services unit at 609-984-5828 or visit nj.gov/guns.