Residents Show Concern Over Crime Rate
Last week, Galloway Police stated a report on gang stats released by the state was misleading, but crime has been on the rise for the last 5-7 years.
In the last five to seven years, Galloway has seen an increase in drug activity and gun confiscation.
As residents digest recent stats released by the New Jersey State Police showing Galloway Township to have the largest gang population in Atlantic County, many cite recent incidents occurring in the Smithville area as evidence that the housing development known as “The Clubs” off of Wrangleboro Road is a main factor in Galloway’s increasing crime rate.
Last week, the Galloway Police Department called the gang statistics misleading, but did admit crime has been on the rise for more than half a decade.
According to many residents, their anxiety about Galloway’s crime rate has been exacerbated by last week’s robbery at the CVS Pharmacy in Smithville, approximately one mile from The Clubs.
“They were held up at gun point,” said Regina Silver, a second grade teacher at Smithville Elementary School.
CVS employees declined to comment because of the store’s corporate policy.
Police often notify teachers when something crime-related occurs in the area, Silver said.
“The cops have told us to lock our car doors,” she added. “Ten years ago, we didn’t do that.”
Silver also noted that there have been changes recently in school policy surrounding security. New policies include implementing “lock-down drills” on a monthly basis to protect students from intruders.
A Smithville business manager, who wished to be referred to as Joe Smith because of his home’s proximity to the Clubs, said he’s in the process of moving away from the area because of the alleged gang violence and drug activity.
The recent break-in at CVS, he said, further indicates how “transient” the area is becoming.
There are a lot of people moving into these inexpensive housing developments from Atlantic City, Smith explained and they bring their “[drug] habits with them.”
“We don’t have enough police. … This is all happening within a stone’s throw of the schools,” he added. “It’s astonishing.”
While some Galloway residents attribute crime issues in Galloway to the drug culture and low-income housing off of Wrangleboro Road, some say the problem is more related to teenage angst.
Such was the opinion of 19-year-old resident Rachel Evans, who claimed that “boredom” and lack of purpose amongst teens is the cause of the increased crime rate.
Yet, not all residents have taken notice of the area’s struggle to curtail gang and drug related incidents.
Mike Spagnola, the co-owner of Underground, a punk rock oriented boutique in Historic Smithville, claimed that although the bulk of Galloway’s illicit gang and drug activity is concentrated only one mile away from his shop, the area is generally “pretty quiet.”
“I feel pretty safe,” he said. “As a business owner you always worry. … There have been break-ins here before.”
“You can’t let it make you crazy.”