Two Camden killings end year on a fatal note

A Camden County police officer speaks to friends and family members of a homicide victim in the Bergen Square neighborhood.
A Camden County police officer speaks to friends and family members of a homicide victim in the Bergen Square neighborhood. (JONATHAN LAI / Staff)
Posted: January 02, 2014

CAMDEN Two men were killed Tuesday in Camden in what authorities said appeared to be a drug-related shooting.

They became the city's 56th and 57th homicide victims of 2013, pushing the homicide rate to the second-highest level on record and the number of victims to its third-highest level. In 2012, 67 people were slain.

Around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, police were called to a house on the 700 block of Division Street, also known as Ramona Gonzalez Street, in the Bergen Square neighborhood.

They found Jorge Chavis, 31, and James Anderson, 23, dead from gunshot wounds, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said in a news release.

The two had been killed in a drug-related shooting, an official with knowledge of the investigation said.

Initial reports indicated that police were looking for a gunman wearing a black ski mask. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday evening.

Dozens of neighbors gathered at Pine Street and Princeton Avenue, near where the shooting occurred, after police blocked off the area.

Just outside the police tape, a group of one or two dozen family members and friends comforted each other in hushed tones, some sobbing and others staring at the brick facade of the rowhouse where investigators were working.

"What happened to my baby?" cried a woman, identified as the mother of one of the victims, who broke through the crowd just before 2 p.m. Family members reached out to support her as she fell to the ground, pleading, "Tell me what happened."

Looking down the block, the woman cried out to her gathered family: "What happened over there?"

Investigators had no immediate answers.

Camden saw 58 homicides in 1995, making 2013's homicide total the third-highest since 1985, the earliest numbers available as compiled by the FBI from police data.

The homicide rate in 1995, calculated as the number of homicides per 100,000 people, was 69.6, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics.

But the population has fallen by more than 5,500 people since 1995, according to Census Bureau estimates. Thus, in 2013, the homicide rate was around 74, according to an Inquirer analysis. That makes it the second-highest since last year's record of 86.3 homicide victims per 100,000 people.

In the five years preceding 2012, there were an average of 42.8 homicide victims each year in Camden, with an average homicide rate of 55.1 victims per 100,000 people.


jlai@phillynews.com

856-779-3220 @elaijuh

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