CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and local organizations are working to prevent youth violence following the deadly stabbing of a 16-year-old and the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy within one month of each other.
The 16-year-old’s death marked the first homicide of the year in Camden County.
It happened roughly four weeks after 14-year-old Dai’meon Allen was shot and killed following a birthday party.
“It’s always tough, especially when a kid is involved,” Maria Hernandez said. “Probably one of the toughest parts of our jobs.”
In less than a month, a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old were killed in separate homicides in Camden County. Today @CBSPhiladelphia at 5:30 p.m., we talk to Camden County’s prosecutor and Cure4Camden about their ongoing efforts to prevent youth violence. pic.twitter.com/Rx8p4zaec3
— Brandon Goldner (@GoldnerTV) January 6, 2023
Hernandez supervises Camden Center for Family Services’ Cure4Camden, which works with young people on the streets to de-escalate conflicts before they turn violent.
“The outreach worker’s job is to walk [young people] through these steps to help them not get involved in a situation that’s going to land them in jail,” Hernandez said.
Despite the two murders, Camden County Prosecutor Grace MacAulay, who just completed her first year in office, said violent crime is down.
For example, attempted murders in 2022 are down 50% compared to 2021.
MacAulay credits establishing a unit dedicated solely to community relations to prevent violence, which includes going to schools and meeting with kids.
“What we want to do is be positive, obviously, and proactive and get there,” MacAulay said. “The way to do that is to gain the public trust, and eventually, if they trust and respect you, crime goes down.”
She said that relationship building has been helpful as her office investigates the deaths of the 16-year-old and Allen, whose killer remains on the loose.
“To go into the community, talk to the people,” MacAulay said. “Listen to the public and develop relationships and develop mutual trust and respect.”