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New Law Enforcement Facility

New law enforcement facility to serve child victims of abuse in Camden County

Kevin Riordan | @Inqkriordan | kriordan@phillynews.com

TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Grace MacAulay, section chief of the Special Victims Unit of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, walks through the Child Advocacy Center under construction in downtown Camden. The facility is expected to open in spring. Behind MacAulay is project superintendent Rich Bushby, of Newport Construction.

A former union hall is being transformed into a kid-friendly space designed to help children talk about — and begin healing from — awful things adults have done to them.

The Camden County Child Advocacy Center, to be operated by the Special Victims Unit of the county prosecutor’s office, is expected to open this spring at 1137 Federal St. in downtown Camden.

I visited this $1.5 million work-in-progress on Thursday, and was impressed by the enhanced help it will offer victims, as well as its benefits for the law enforcement and other professionals pursuing justice on their behalf. I also left with profound admiration for the half-dozen professionals I met who do this difficult but essential work.

“The center is something that’s been talked about for years and years,” says Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Grace C. MacAulay, the chief of the unit and also an intrepid guide during a tour of the busy construction site.

“This is where victims and their families will enter,” she says, standing inside the nearly 5,000-square-foot structure. It was built as a police union headquarters in 1997.

“This will be the children’s waiting room, and on this wall there will be a lovely, hand-painted mural,” MacAulay says.

There also will be a medical office where children can be examined for evidence of sexual abuse or other trauma.

“The child is first,” she adds. “They are the true innocents. The most vulnerable.”

TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Construction continues at the new Camden County Child Advocacy Center in Camden. The building was formerly a union hall.

The center will replace the unit’s utilitarian sixth-floor suite of rental offices in another downtown building. The current set-up is functional but less than ideal for young victims. The new facility has been designed to better serve their needs, as well as to enable better coordination of services by the multiple agencies involved in cases of sexual and physical abuse, endangerment, and exploitation of children.

The facility has been made possible by strong support from Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo, who provided $250,000 in federal forfeiture justice account funds, as well as $1 million from the Camden County Board of Freeholders and two grants from the state Department of Children and Families. “It’s the best project of any of the projects in the city,” says Mike Mangold, a retired detective who is chief of staff in the prosecutor’s office.

“The CAC is not just a building,” says Megan Price, a victim witness advocate with the unit. She calls it “a physical and psychological safe space for children to share their story” with specially trained law enforcement, medical, and mental-health professionals.

The unit investigates 500 to 600 complaints or referrals related to suspected child abuse or endangerment made annually in Camden County, largely by local law enforcement, schools, hospitals, and New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency. Camden County prosecutes about 350 cases a year, most of which are resolved through plea agreements, thereby saving children the trauma of having to testify in court.

These days, people could be forgiven for thinking we’ve heard it all with regard to sexual misconduct involving adults, and in some instances adults and underage victims. But nothing prepared me for the examples MacAulay gives when I ask what sorts of cases her investigators and other professionals encounter.

Criminal cases involving children — especially the very young or developmentally disabled — being beaten, burned, or sexually abused, often by family members, are far from uncommon. Such as the case of a 10-month-old baby brought to a city emergency room wailing from the pain of broken bones throughout his body. Or an 8-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by her mother’s boyfriend.

Or the 13-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted again and again during a nine-month period; in that case, a Camden County jury last week found Jason Wagner, 46, of Collingswood, guilty. He is to be sentenced in February.

“Child abuse is so complex,” notes Sgt. Amy Pisano, who also works in the Special Victims Unit. “There is often an intermingling of family relationships. The victims care about the parents who are abusing them. It’s a web that creates a confusing situation.”

Says MacAulay: “The child is first. We don’t want to see them re-victimized” by the investigative process.

The unit already is working toward accreditation by the National Children’s Alliance, which sets standards for child advocacy centers. And there’s a nonprofit, all-volunteer group called Friends of the Camden County Child Advocacy Center, headed by retired assistant prosecutor Diane Marano.

Volunteers will help educate the public about what the center is and does; despite all the news coverage about accusations of adult sex crimes or related offenses, some people aren’t aware of the Special Victims Unit, or confuse it with state programs.

That’s why the publicity about sexual harassment among celebrities may prove useful “if it helps to empower victims to come forward … and not be ashamed,” says Marano.

The Friends group will raise money to help meet the needs of the victims; MacAulay cites as examples a deaf victim who may need a hearing aid, a victim who may need additional therapy, and the little girl she mentioned earlier, whose bedroom — the scene of the crime — required repainting and restoration.

In a nod to the unit’s staff, Marano says: “It takes a special person to do this kind of work.”

About that, I have no doubt.

“We’re making the community safer for all children,” Pisano says.

Noting that some offenders have multiple victims, she adds: “In one recent case, a child was empowered to come forward because another victim came forward.

“So we helped the victim who first came forward begin to heal. We were able to stop abuse that was happening to a second victim. And we prevented that offender from victimizing others.”

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CCMUA Honored by National Association of Clean Water Agencies

The Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) was honored with a 2017 National Environmental Achievement Award for excellence from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA). The CCMUA was recognized as a Water Resources Utility of the Future.

“The CCMUA was singled out by its peers as one of the most effective and responsible operations in the nation,” said Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, liaison to the CCMUA. “They are stewards of the environment. The work they do on behalf of the residents of this county is something in which we can all be proud.”

The NACWA represents the collective interests of American’s clean water utilities and is the leading advocate for responsible national policies that advance clean water and a healthy environment.

Freeholders Offer Municipalities Solution for Stray Cat Problem

The Freeholder Board recently introduced a Community Cat Ordinance to serve as a model for municipalities dealing with the challenge of stray and feral cats.

“The Community Cat Ordinance is based on the principles of trap, neuter and return (TNR), which we feel is the most effective method of managing the stray and feral cat population,” said Freeholder Jeff Nash. “TNR is a non-lethal population control technique utilized to humanely capture, vaccinate, identify and spay or neuter cats.”

The long-term goal of the County Community Cat Ordinance is to reduce the growth of stray and feral cat populations, stop the spread of diseases and reduce the numbers of feral cats through natural attrition. This plan will lessen their impact on the region’s ecology and reduce costs for our municipalities.

“Cats are domestic animals that are better suited to living in a home that provides shelter, a nutritious diet, appropriate exercise and protection from other animals,” Nash said. “Stray kittens and cats that are tame enough to be socialized can then be adopted by local families.”

Adult cats that cannot be socialized are returned to where they were trapped. With proper management and oversight, they can live out their lives under the supervision of a community cat caregiver. Cats will need to be periodically re-trapped to update their vaccinations and receive medical care.

“These cats can be found in industrial areas, open spaces and neighborhoods. While some find their way into homes and shelters, many of them are left to fend for themselves or are cared for by concerned citizens,” Nash said.

It is estimated that there are somewhere between 1.3 and 2 million stray and cats in New Jersey. It is also estimated that there are more than 123,000 cats in Camden County, and between as many as 20 percent of those are considered stray or feral.

In the United States, only about two percent of the 30 to 40 million stray cats have been spayed or neutered. These cats produce around 80 percent of the kittens born each year.

“Shelters in communities with a large population of outdoor cats that aren’t spayed or neutered experience numerous challenges and increased costs associated with their care,” Nash said. “In areas without this program, there are unfortunately higher euthanasia rates among cats that are unable to be domesticated and adopted.”

To adopt a pet, please visit the Camden County Animal Shelter, located at 125 County House Road, Blackwood, NJ 08012. For more information, visit www.ccasnj.org or call 856-401-1300 for adoption hours.

February Freeholder Meeting Held in Brooklawn

On Thursday, February 16th, the Camden County Board of Freeholders held their monthly meeting at the Brooklawn Senior Community Center. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Girl Scout Troop 30721. The National Anthem was performed by David Chorzelewski, a Rutgers University music education student.

Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez presented a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) check for $21,600 to Mayor Theresa Branella and members of council. The federally funded CDBG funds will be used to replace deteriorated sidewalks throughout the municipality.

Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli recognized Girl Scout Troop 30721 and presented them with a $100 donation. Brooklawn Brownie Girl Scout Troop is comprised of 13 girls from the area. Last year, the girls used their earnings from the sale of cookies to assemble snack bags for patients undergoing chemotherapy. The troop recently earned their philanthropist badges by making 250 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to serve the homeless and hungry population of Camden City. They also collected food, toys, clothing, hats, and gloves for donation to various local organizations. The young ladies of this troop are committed to helping the community and have shown dedication and diligence in all that they do.

Freeholder Susan Shin Angulo presented a community award to Kimberly Meehan. Kimberly is a registered dental hygienist and has volunteered in community dental programs for over 20 years. Kimberly developed a community outreach program to educate children grades K-3 on good oral health. Since 2007, she has volunteered in over 200 classrooms in Philadelphia, Camden, and Gloucester Counties. Kimberly is also an active volunteer in Brooklawn. She is on the planning committee for the Brooklawn Fall Festival, assists the spirit committee in spreading Christmas cheer to families in need, and created and directed the inaugural Brooklawn Fall Festival Royalty Competition for girls ages 5-24. Last year, Kimberly volunteered to help raise awareness and gather donations for Purses Full of Hope by collecting purses filled with hygiene products, make up, hats, gloves, scarves and a note of encouragement for women in homeless shelters and safe havens. Kimberly and her team of 5 delivered over 500 purses to Camden County Women’s Center, Philadelphia’s Women Against Abuse, and Mothers Home in Delaware County. Kimberly will continue to raise awareness, gathering, and delivering Purses Full of Hope this coming Mother’s Day and New Year’s Day. Kimberly resides in Brooklawn with her husband James and their two dogs Maggie and Mina.

Freeholder Bill Moen presented the Young Community Leader Award to Angel Rodriguez. At 20 years old, Angel has experienced many difficult times at an early age. Angel was placed in foster care at the age of five, moving from one foster home to another. He struggled in school and sometimes lost his way especially after the tragic loss of his sister. Angel graduated from Gloucester City High School and was a Varsity Letter winner in baseball. For the past few years he has lived with the family of Bruce and Jill Darrow. The Darrow’s instilled in Angel the importance of community involvement and volunteering. Instead of giving up, Angel is now a junior at Rowan University pursuing his dream of becoming a teacher. Angel has been elected to the Brooklawn Board of Education. He is the boys’ basketball coach at Alice Costello School and he coached the girls’ travel softball team, girls’ travel basketball team and the All-Out Baseball Academy ASA softball team. Angel also served as an officer for the Gloucester City Basketball Association.

Freeholder Moen presented the monthly sustainability award to Brown’s Super Store-Brooklawn ShopRite. The Brown’s Shoprite commitment to sustainability has been integrated into all aspects of their operations and management. They have developed a comprehensive plan detailing their long-term programs that are beneficial to the environment and to the communities they serve. Their plan incorporates three pillars: reduce environmental impact, ensure health and safety of associates, and lastly embrace corporate social responsibility. In addition, they use advanced technology to reduce their carbon footprint by installing LED lighting and upgrading refrigeration systems with state of the art controls to maximize efficiency and reduce cost. Brown’s has recycled thousands of tons of cardboard, plastic, paper and organic materials – significantly reducing waste from entering landfills. They have also collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to manage food waste more sustainably. Lastly, they have partnered with food banks throughout the region to donate fresh food to help provide nutritious meals to the homeless.

Freeholder Director Cappelli presented a proclamation to Brooke Mulford. Brooke was diagnosed with neuroblastoma on January 5th, 2009 at the young age of 4 years old. Since that awful day, Brooke has endured multiple surgeries, stem cell transplants, numerous bone marrow biopsies and blood and platelet transfusions. Countless days of radiation to her skull, both femurs and abdomen and completed a grueling immunotherapy clinical trial in 2010. The cancer had started in her right adrenal gland and spread through every bone in her body, and approximately 80% of her bone marrow. Brooke has never once complained about having to go to the hospital for treatments and actually enjoyed “sleepovers” and getting to see her amazing doctors. Brooke has an infectious smile and a strong positive attitude. Brooke celebrates every day and inspires thousands around the country with her strength. Brooke’s cancer has spread to her brain and recently had brain surgery. She will continue treatments all with a smile, as she never gives up. Brooke, now 12 years old, loves Pokémon, Animal Jam, Webkinz, Legos, Minecraft and her favorite sport teams are the Baltimore Ravens, the Boston Red Sox and the Phillies!

Freeholder Jeff Nash presented a proclamation to Jodina Hicks. In 1998, 18-year-old Jodina, was attending college and came to Camden to teach a Sunday school class. During the next 12 years, she became involved in what has become the Urban Promise school. She created the StreetLeader Program, a teen employment and leadership program. In 2000, Jodina left Urban Promise to attain her law degree from Rutgers University. She then became involved in the non-profit world of prison reform and reentry. Eventually she moved to Chicago and became Vice President of the SAFER Foundation, a premier reentry program. She has directed programs that served 10,000 individuals with criminal records in Illinois and Iowa, and her work produced many publications to reduce recidivism and helped craft Illinois state legislation. In 2010, Jodina returned to Camden and Urban Promise to become the Executive Director. She oversees a staff of over 60 full time employees, a $3.2 million-dollar budget and hundreds of youth daily in a multitude of programs. Jodina is a mother to 5 adopted children: Gabriel, Carter, Courage and nieces Alyssa & Aaliyah

Freeholder Nash presented Camden County’s February employee of the month to Brian Costantino, the District Recycling Coordinator for the Division of Environmental Affairs. Brian has worked for Camden County for 22 years. He is a NJ Certified Recycling Professional, Member of Association of NJ Household Hazardous Coordinators and Member of Association of NJ Recyclers. Brian was the 2008 recipient of the NJ Clean Communities award for enforcement, was interviewed by Businessweek regarding electronic waste recycling, and was instrumental in the passage of senate bill S981, updating the Electronic Waste Management Act of NJ. Outside of work, he enjoys boating, fishing, music, and acting. He has appeared on TV shows like Boardwalk Empire and The Knick, and on movies like Jersey Girl, Creed, and Paranoia. Brian coached high school football for 8 years at St. Joes Prep in Philadelphia and 1 year at Camden Catholic in Pennsauken. He was raised in Gloucester Twp. and attended Paul VI High School in Haddon Twp. Brian has a Bachelor of Science degree from West Chester University and resides in Gloucester Twp. with his wife and three children.

Camden County Commemorates Black History Month

The Camden County Freeholder Board and the Camden County Library System are presenting a wide-ranging schedule of events throughout February to celebrate Black History Month. This month-long commemoration of African-American history throughout our nation was originally marked in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson.

“From an African American film series to African heritage cooking classes, there is truly something for everyone this month,” said Freeholder Jonathan Young. “The events planned by the Camden County Library System will excite, inspire and celebrate the rich history of the African-American Community.”

Upcoming are:
Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez Downtown Camden Branch

301 North 5th Street, Camden

African American Film Festival
Ages 18 and up
Tuesdays, February 7, 14, 21, 28, 12:30 p.m.
See new or classic films that celebrate and explore the Black experience.

Dinner and a Movie Celebrates Black History Month
Ages 12 and under
Thursday, February 16, 5:30 p.m.
Enjoy a simple supper and watch a great movie on the big screen.
Riletta L. Cream Branch

852 Ferry Avenue, Camden

African American Film Festival, Thursdays, 3 p.m.:

February 2 – “Lean on Me” 1989, starring Morgan Freeman

February 9 – “Love and Basketball” 2000, starring Omar Epps

February 16 – “The Color Purple” 1985, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover

February 23 – “Ray” 2004, starring Jamie Foxx

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip
Ages 6 – 12
Friday, February 10, 3:30 p.m.
As part of Black History Month, learn about African-American chef George Crum, who is credited with inventing potato chips. Potato chip taste-testing follows the story.

A Taste of African Heritage Cooking Class
All ages

Saturdays, Feb. 11, 18, 25, March 4, Times vary by date – see below
The African Heritage Diet is a way of eating based on the healthy food traditions of people with African roots. This healthy way of eating is powerfully nutritious and delicious, and naturally meets the guidelines experts recommend for supporting good health. People who sign up for this program are requested to attend all four sessions.

February 11, 1:30 p.m.-3:30 pm
February 18, 2:30 pm-4:30pm
February 25, 1:00-3:00 pm
March 4, 1:30-3:30pm

Hip-Hop Jazz Musicology,
All ages

Wednesday, February 15, 3:30 p.m.
Learn the history of African-American music from its roots in Africa to modern day hip-hop. Featuring multi-instrumentalist musician Ali Richardson.
M. Allan Vogelson Regional Branch Library

203 Laurel Road, Voorhees

Black History Month Story Time
All Ages
Thursday, February 16, 7 p.m.
Celebrate Black History Month with stories and special guests!
South County Regional Branch Library

35 Cooper Folly Road, Winslow Township

‘I Have a Dream’ Open Mic Night
Ages 9 and up

Friday, February 17, 6:30 p.m.
I Have a Dream! What is yours? Be inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech by writing your own speech. On Friday, February 17, we will have an Open Mic Night where people can read their speech or have it read by a friend. Audience members can vote for their favorite speech. Prizes will be awarded.

Registration for any event is available online at www.camdencountylibrary.org/events or by calling the local branch.

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