On Google, ex-addict finds a sad, familiar Camden scene

Posted: August 21, 2014

THE IMAGE OF a guy in baggy jeans appearing to buy drugs near a gated driveway in Camden is stuck in time forever, or until Goggle remaps Carman Street, with no way to know who the blurry-faced buyer was or where he went after getting high.

But T.J., a former heroin addict who once copped dope at that fence almost daily, said he can see himself in that nameless stranger and knows that heroin likely drove the guy down a hard road to death, jail or, like himself, recovery.

The 28-year-old Cherry Hill native, who now lives in Pennsylvania and works as a counselor's assistant at a treatment facility, said he was on Google Maps looking for directions and found that his route would take him through Camden. He decided to look up his old "dope spot," on Carman Street near 24th, and found that a familiar transaction had been captured by Google's Street View camera car in August 2012.

"I was kind of half expecting it," he told the Daily News yesterday. "There was constant foot traffic."

T.J., who asked that his full name not be published, posted the image on the social-media site Reddit under his user name, wowurdumb, on Friday with an honest discussion about his own addiction and recovery that went viral and was picked up by the New York Post and other media on Monday.

"I'm extremely open about my recovery," T.J. said yesterday. "I lived in abandoned houses right off 25th and Federal, right around there. I stole from my family."

He's been clean for three years and seven months, he said.

Yesterday afternoon, the home on Carman Street looked even more broken-down than it did two years ago, the gate wide open with feral cats prowling a jungle of head-high weeds in the driveway. A pair of flip-flops sat by a blanket on a back porch.

No dealers were there or around the small block, and a woman who lives in the neighborhood said police in Camden had shut it down as a drug location.

Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson said the photo highlights the challenges his department faces.

"Over the past year we have closed a significant amount of open-air drug markets," he said.

That was good to hear, T.J. said yesterday, although he said Camden's heroin would still attract addicts old and new. He left the day after Christmas in 2010, and hopes the guy in the photo found a way out, too.

"I'm just trying to get the word out," T.J. said. "It can be done."

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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