As Atlantic City adds more security cameras, 2 men are killed in areas already covered by them
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — One man was fatally stabbed while another was found bleeding to death on New Year's Day in Atlantic City, the gambling resort that's currently adding hundreds of new security cameras to the thousands already keeping an electric eye on this busy tourist destination.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said police responded to a 911 call at 6:15 a.m. Monday of a man found bleeding on a street near the beach who later died at a hospital. Little more than an hour later, police got a second 911 call about a 22-year-old man was pronounced dead from multiple stab wounds near the Boardwalk.
The deaths do not appear to be related, and no arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. But it is cases like these that have raised calls for new cameras amid heightened demands for increased public security in a gambling resort visited by 27 million people a year.
In October, the city announced a $5 million state-financed program to install 200 cameras with five independent lenses apiece throughout city neighborhoods. Police Chief James Sarkos says that's akin to deploying 1,000 new cameras to supplement the 3,000 public and private ones already up and running.
While not enough to cover every inch of the 48-block city, the overwhelming majority of Atlantic City will be covered once the project is completed later this year.
Yet the stakes are high for a resort dependent on tourists and their money; if gamblers, vacationers and others don’t feel safe in Atlantic City, they’ll go elsewhere.
“Public safety is extremely important in Atlantic City,” said Sarkos, who called the cameras “a force multiplier” that extends the reach of officers into spots where they're not physically present. "It's a huge investment in public safety, and it's going to make Atlantic City safer for everybody.”
Neither city police nor the county prosecutor's office would say whether the network of existing cameras on and near the Boardwalk and on neighborhood streets captured any images that might aid the investigation into the two New Year's deaths.
A Nov. 7 homicide near Boardwalk Hall also remains unsolved. Authorities also wouldn't say whether an outdoor security camera mounted on a nearby building yielded anything useful in that investigation.
Statistics provided by the police department show several categories of major crime increased in 2023 compared with the previous year. From Jan. 1 through Nov. 26, there were seven homicides in Atlantic City, compared with six over the same period a year earlier. Aggravated assaults rose from 317 in 2022 to 355 last year, and robberies from 189 to 194 over that same period.
City and state officials have worked hard to address widely held concerns about public safety in Atlantic City, investing millions.
But Associated Press interviews conducted before the latest deaths show that changing perceptions will not happen overnight.
“I don’t believe Atlantic City is safe,” said Leonard Hall of Mullica Hill, New Jersey. “Safe is being able to walk around without your life in increased danger. I’m for more cameras, but that’s not going to stop criminals. Some people say they had a fine experience but that doesn’t take away from the stabbings, shootings, thefts, or assaults that have happened to others.”
However, Ed Jessup of Brooklyn, New York, said he feels safe walking around in Atlantic City, and not just on the Boardwalk.
“I’ve shopped at the outlets, went to dinner and felt fine,” he said. “You just have to be aware of your surroundings after dark."
Police in Las Vegas, whose population of 646,000 people is 17 times larger than that of Atlantic City and which has more than six times as many casinos, would not discuss that city's use of security cameras other than to say technology plays an important part in public safety.
Jeff Behm, an Atlantic City resident, called the cameras “a great idea that can only help.”
“Parts of Atlantic City feel safe, but most places do not after dark,” he said. “Of course, if they catch the criminals but they’re back on the streets the next day, the cameras won’t help much.”
Amy Jackson of York, Pennsylvania, said the cameras make her feel safer.
“We might want to advertise that AC has cameras, so think twice before committing a crime,” she said.
The city has had cameras on its Boardwalk since 2016.
They have not only helped solve numerous crimes, including a near-fatal stabbing, a burglary, and a purse-snatching, but also found lost children and elderly visitors who wandered off. They even thwarted a bogus injury claim in which a man saw a slightly raised board on the walkway, laid down next to it, and called for help, saying he had tripped on it, fallen and injured himself, said Lt. Kevin Fair.
The new cameras, as well as most existing ones, are monitored in real time by a surveillance unit at police headquarters, staffed by retired police officers. Incoming calls for help can be quickly linked to camera feeds showing the area from which the call came, allowing officers to see what is happening before they even arrive.
Though the cameras do not use facial recognition, they can swiftly glean information describing a suspect such as their color of clothing, shoes — or a vehicle associated with a crime.
Private businesses, including the nine casinos, can quickly and easily share their own camera feeds with police when needed, Sarkos added.