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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    Jamar Cofer allegedly was traveling with a pack of other ATV riders when the incident took place, a report says.

    CAMDEN -- A man is facing two counts of attempted murder after allegedly using an ATV to go after two officers from the Camden County Police Department, a report says.

    Authorities say Jamar Cofer, 28, targeted the officers during an incident the night of Aug. 5 at the East Coast Gas at Broadway and Newton Street in the city, according to courierpostonline.com

    Police say Cofer's ATV hit a door on the car the two officers was in causing the door to hit Berry and then he struck Eagan throwing him into the street, the report says.

    Cofer, of Pennsauken, was arrested on Aug. 9, Camden Police said on Friday. He was reportedly traveling with a pack of other ATV riders at the time of the incident.

    In addition to attempted murder, Cofer is also facing two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer among other charges, courierpostonline.com reported.

    Bill Gallo Jr. may be reached at bgallo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Bill Gallo Jr. on Twitter @bgallojr. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Which top returning stat leader will block shots the state in 2017?


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    Brendan Creato's father, David "DJ" Creato, now 24, has admitted causing the boy's death.


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    It is the third time that Deanna Joseph has been charged with neglecting or endangering a child, records show.

    ALLOWAY TWP. -- A woman who passed out after taking drugs has been charged in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, who remained unattended for hours Saturday in her car seat and somehow fatally injured herself, authorities said.

    Deanna J. Joseph, 39, was charged with second-degree child endangerment after she called 911 around 9:45 p.m. from her home on Timberman Road to report that her child was unresponsive, State Police said.

    "It appeared the child was confined in a car seat for an extended period of time while the mother was under the influence of drugs, and may have injured herself in the car seat," Salem County Prosecutor John T. Lenahan said Sunday.

    Lenahan said the child had no obvious signs of blunt force trauma and the exact cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner's office.

    Joseph, who was in the vehicle with her daughter, had left the car parked but running in her driveway, he said. It was a cool night, he said, but Joseph had the heater on.

    This is Joseph's third arrest in nine years on charges related to neglect of a child, according to court records.

    Most recently, Joseph was convicted in 2014 of cruelty and neglect of a child after authorities reportedly found her unconscious while her son, then an infant, bathed in several inches of water in a South Amboy apartment. She was sentenced to a year in jail and was released a year ago this month, records show.

    Police told Mycentraljersey.com in 2014 that Joseph was found unresponsive next to spoons and glassine envelopes containing heroin residue, along with a couple of rocks of crack cocaine.

    Joseph was also convicted of cruelty and neglect of a child in 2008 in Superior Court in Burlington County and sentenced to five years probation. 

    According to a Burlington County Times report at that time, Evesham police arrested her after determining that she left her children, 11 and 2, alone at home. Police made the discovery after they found Joseph under the influence of drugs in a parking lot and took her to a hospital.

    After the 2008 arrest, the two children were taken into state custody at least temporarily, according to the Burlington County Times.

    Court records show she has also been convicted, over 20 years, on charges from seven separate arrests, including possession of heroin and cocaine and resisting arrest or eluding after being instructed to stop.

    If convicted of the second-degree offense, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

    It was not clear Sunday whether Joseph was being monitored by the state Department of Children and Families' Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

     Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey welcome adopters and assistance.

    If you're interested in helping homeless animals but aren't able to adopt one, there are a number of other ways you can be of assistance.

    Realistically, not everyone can adopt. People who live in apartments or developments that have no-pets policies fall into that category, as do people with allergies or disabilities that will not allow them to care for pets of their own. Here are some suggestions for ways people who want to help can participate in caring for homeless animals.

    * Help out at a local shelter. It's not glamorous work by any means, but it's vital and will be very much appreciated. You can do anything from help walk dogs to bottle feed kittens, help clean kennels or cat's cages or even help with bathing and grooming. Contact your local shelter to find out their policies regarding volunteers.

    * If you're handy, you can lend a hand in many ways. Shelters usually need repairs of many kinds, so fixer-uppers can help out like that. If you sew, quilt or crochet, you can make blankets for your local shelter.

    * Help out at an adoption event. Many shelters and rescue groups participate in local events by hosting a table with pets available for adoption. They also hold these program at malls, pet supply stores and banks, and can always use a helping hand.

    * For galleries like this one and for online adoptions sites, often a shelter or rescue group doesn't have the time or equipment to shoot good photos of their adoptable pets, Something as simple as making yourself available to shoot and provide digital files of pet photos can be a big help.

    * Donate. It doesn't have to be money; shelters need cleaning supplies, pet food, toys for the animals and often even things we don't think twice about getting rid of like old towels and newspapers. Every little bit helps.

    If you don't know where your local animal shelter or rescue group is, a quick online search will reveal a number of results. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to get involved but it provides immeasurable assistance.


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    The personal vehicles of officers also had tires slashed Watch video

    SOMERDALE - Police are searching for a man who slashed 52 tires on police, fire and personal vehicles early Sunday in a municipal parking lot.

    The incident occurred shortly before 1:30 a.m. The man was recorded on surveillance video released by police.

    Tires were slashed on nine police cruisers, a fire vehicle and three personal vehicles of police officers, officials said.

    Officials are asking anyone who can identify the man in the video to call 856-428-6324, ext. 2600.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Studies have shown that students of color or those with disabilities are more likely to be suspended.

    CAMDEN -- When misbehaving students receive punishments other than out-of-school suspensions, that means they spend more time in classrooms learning.

    At Camden City schools during the last school year, students spent an extra 6,642 days sitting at their desks instead of out on suspensions, compared to previous school years.

    That's according to numbers from the district, which announced Thursday that its district-wide effort to reduce the number of suspensions is working.

    The total number of suspensions was down 53 percent, the district said, and the number of school days missed for suspensions was down 72 percent.

    Partly responsible for the reduction is Elan Drennon, who joined the district two years ago with the hefty title of senior manager of student equity initiatives and school climate strategy.

    Drennon said Friday that the district has adopted a new code of conduct -- including a tiered system that specifies which behaviors warrant certain punishments -- with a goal of keeping kids in classrooms and finding punishments that actually make sense.

    There was room for improvement, as nearly half of the students at the district's two comprehensive high schools were suspended over the course of the 2015-2016 school year. 

    Percent of students who were suspended per year.jpg 

    The disciplines were not uniform across the district, and many suspensions were for vague and minor infractions like "disrespect" or uniform violations. In some cases, Drennon said, school administrators were not documenting what the infractions were that led to suspensions.

    School districts across the country are re-examining the ways they dole out punishment after research has shown that out-of-school suspensions can set vulnerable students back and tend to target certain groups.

    The U.S. Department of Education says that studies have found that students of color and those with disabilities are suspended at greater rates than their peers, and suspensions are "associated with negative student outcomes" including higher drop-out rates, delayed graduation and lower academic performance.

    The goal isn't just to find punishments that don't involve sending kids home, Drennon said. The disciplinary measures should be contructive and sensible, fix whatever wrong was done, and help get the student back on track.

    For instance, she said, a student who vandalizes the wall should clean it up, and a student who steals from a classmate should have to talk to the victim and try to make amends.

    If someone is skipping class, an out-of-school suspension "is like a vacation," Drennon said. Camden officials have learned that those students are often struggling in the classes they skipped, so under the new system, their discipline also came with tutoring in the subject.

    The best case scenario, Drennon said, is that a student who has acted out, maybe because they're having trouble with bullying or at home, connects with a school counselor, builds a relationship and gets help dealing with the root of the problem.

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    Committing a serious infraction, like physically fighting or selling drugs, could still get a student a five-day suspension, the code says. In-school suspensions could involve counseling, "restorative circles" to talk about what went wrong, and school community service, like helping to clean the cafeteria, Drennon said.

    She said that the reduction in suspensions is not just due to the choice to use alternative disciplines. It's because the district has hired specialized staff and trained seasoned workers to spot warning signs -- like absenteeism -- and do something about it.

    "Now we aren't waiting till students exhibit that behaior to get our attention," she said. "We're asking, 'what's wrong?'"

    Each comprehensive high school now has a "Climate and Culture Coordinator" to work toward a more positive culture and identify and aid students who aren't behaving.

    The schools with the most behavioral problems also have three behavior specialists focusing on working with students and their families to get them services if they start acting out, the district said.

    Seeing results

    The biggest reduction in suspensions was in the city's comprehensive high schools, where they dropped by 89 percent, the district said. Overall, suspensions were down 73 percent at all district high schools and 24 percent at the elementary and family schools.

    Maita Soukup, a spokeswoman for the district, said the suspensions in the K-8 schools averaged out to 23 suspensions per school in the last school year, compared to about 30 per school in the 2015-2016 school year.

    The district said suspensions have been "all but eliminated" for the youngest students in the district. Drennon said the district did have some students in grades four through six suspended last year, but she'd like to see no suspensions for anyone below grade seven.

    Last September, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill that prohibited out-of-school suspensions for students in kindergarten through grade two unless it is due to "conduct that is of a violent or sexual nature that endangers others."

    The city's schools were taken over by the state in 2013 due to failing test scores and a 49 percent graduation rate, among other things. The district's graduation rate rose to 70 percent in the most recent school year.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    As much as $7.5 million may be available for users of the coin counting machines.


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    NJ.com unveils its preseason Top 20. Scroll through the slideshow to see which team starts 2017 No. 1.


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    Who is back from NJ.com's postseason selections following the 2016 season?


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    The rocks damaged 10 vehicles over more than six weeks, police said.

    WINSLOW TWP. -- Police said they have caught two teens who have been hurling large rocks at cars on the Atlantic City Expressway, causing damage and injuring two people, for more than six weeks.

    The boy and girl, both 14, were caught Friday with a bucket full of rocks near where Kali Drive dead-ends at the expressway, according to a statement from Winslow police.

    The investigation began July 9, when police received the first report of a vehicle being hit with a rock on the westbound side of the highway in the area of mileposts 40 and 41, police said.

    Over the following weeks, until Aug. 23, nine more vehicles were hit with large rocks in that same area, also heading west.

    "All vehicles sustained smashed windshields and two victims sustained minor injuries," Winslow police said.

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    New Jersey State Police and township police conducted surveillance, canvassed the neighborhood, interviewed victims and witnesses in their investigation.

    They determined that the end of Kali Drive, which is separated from the expressway by a guardrail and about 40 feet, was the most likely spot from which the rocks were being thrown.

    The teens were identified after surveillance cameras in the area captured footage of them Aug. 22, police said.

    Three days later, two witnesses saw the pair in the area of the expressway "gathering rocks in a bucket," police said.

    Each teen was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault, 10 counts of criminal mischief, nine counts of interference with transportation, nine counts of weapons possession and nine counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

    They were placed in the Camden County Juvenile Detention Center in Blackwood, police said.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison will be taking in at least 100 shelter dogs on Aug. 29, 2017, to make room for pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

    MADISON - St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center is coordinating the placement of at least 100 dogs from shelters in Texas to make room for others displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

    It is the first flight to the Northeast of animals affected by the hurricane.

    The animals will arrive Tuesday morning to Morristown Municipal Airport before heading over to St. Hubert's in Madison, where they will be fed and cared for before being distributed to one of 15 sister shelters in the area, Debra Miller said.

    Moving the pets out of the Texas shelters will make way for animals displaced by the storm so they can stay close to their owners, said Miller, director of marketing and events at St. Hubert's.

    "We want to be able to connect them back to their families after the hurricane," she said. "We want to empty the shelters to make space for those pets." 

    After the dogs get a rest for meals and exercise, they will be transferred to partners including Animal Alliance in Belle Mead, Animal Welfare Association and Voorhees Animal Orphanage in Voorhees, Father John's Animal House in Lafayette, Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter in East Hanover and Somerset County Animal Shelter in Bridgewater.

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    "We're the hub for these animals, so they come here. We have so many places we deal with, sister shelters. We have room," Miller said. 

    Animals will also be transported to shelters in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Delaware, New York and Canada. 

    St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center is mobilizing its Sister Shelter WayStation to accept the animals, Miller said. The program coordinates 58 animal welfare organizations in the eastern region of the country to help prevent shelters in one area from having too many of one breed - or size - of dog available for adoption.

    The Human Society of the United States organized the airlift with Wings of Rescue to bring dogs from the San Antonio Animal Care and Control, whose staff has been assisting several shelters in the Houston area.

    "These pets are incredibly lucky to get a second chance through St. Hubert's and their WayStation partners," Kim Alboum, Shelter Outreach and Policy Engagement Director for the Humane Society said in a statement. 

    Miller said as long as shelters need room and pets are in need, St. Hubert's is ready to help them. 

    St. Hubert's is a part of a national network of designated Emergency Placement Partners with the Humane Society, and responds to emergencies to accept animals or deploy experienced staff. The center accepted 133 dogs from California following wildfires in 2016. 

    "Anything they need, we're here to help," she said. 

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at snieto-munoz@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @snietomunoz. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The big-box warehouse store is seeking a variance to sell gasoline.

    CHERRY HILL -- Costco, the big-box, warehouse store, is coming here, but some residents are expressing reservations about its size and changes in the township zoning plan to accommodate it, a published report said.

    The facility is planned to rise in the sprawling Garden State Park large-format retail center. The developer is seeking a change to the township's general development plan, which called for 1,023,400 square feet of office business park uses including a 150-room hotel. 

    Costco wants to change the plan to 174,218 square feet of retail use and include a conditional use variance to operate a gas station on the 26-acre parcel, according to a legal notice recently published. The preliminary and final site plan is scheduled to be considered on a Sept. 5 meeting of the township planning board.

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    The Costco here would be just the second in South Jersey, along with a store in Mount Laurel. The chain operates 13 other stores in New Jersey and 717 other member-only stores in North America.

    The site sits on a parcel of undeveloped land near an existing Home Depot, part of 560,000-square-feet of mostly big-box retailers already here.

    Some residents have objected to the Costco plan, the Courier-Post reports. Nearly a dozen residents spoke out against the plan in 2015 when the township council voted to change the zoning ordinance to allow a fueling station there, the report said.

    The developers said they believe the changes are "permitted and in full compliance with all applicable Cherry Hill land-use regulations," according to the legal notice.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
     

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    A concerted effort to reduce the number of students who face out-of-school disciplinary suspensions is paying off.

    There's an insidious form of discrimination that has been overlooked in many New Jersey school districts. It's how administrators and teachers deal with students' disciplinary infractions and rule violations.

    Ironically, perhaps, it is one of the region's largest school districts with a non-white majority that seems to be best getting a handle on reducing public-school suspensions -- which are disproportionally imposed on black and other minority students. National data show that separation -- out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, "alternative school" placement -- is applied to black students at rates far higher than to white ones.

    The Camden school district says that it has effectively cut suspensions in half by going first to a menu of strategies that can produce behavior control without removing students from the general population. 

    Suspension has always been an odd "punishment" to some because it lets an offending child skip school, often in districts with existing truancy problems and few stay-at-home parents to monitor suspended youngsters.

    There will always be a need to remove repeat offenders who  cause violence or continuously disrupt teachers and students. Yet, students are suspended/expelled for a variety of lesser reasons, and it most often happens to black males. 

    In March, the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on American Education released new data on the phenomenon, studying California public schools in (2015), the first year after the state Legislature banned exclusion-from-school penalties for "willful defiance" -- a catch-all that includes such non-violent infractions as shouting obscenities at a teacher or forgetting to bring a pencil.

    The law was a follow-up to a stunning U.S. Department of Education report that stated that black students nationwide were suspended or expelled at three times the rate of white students.

    The Brookings think-tank found that suspensions of white and black students were both reduced by 28.5 percent after the law, but the African-American suspension rate was still 178 per 1,000 students, while the white rate was just 44 per 1,000.

    The Camden effort applies some of the California law's elements more informally. A matrix of infractions now subject to non-suspension corrective action includes: uniform/dress code violations, lateness, unauthorized cell phone use, and disrespecting teachers or guests.

    Some of the recommended approaches could be too touchy-feely or naive ("provide praise to other students in the area") for the situation. But how could it not make sense to provide a "loaner uniform" to a 9-year-old who arrived without one, instead of sending him or her back to an empty house? And, those old stand-bys, in-school detention and confiscation of prohibited items (think electronic devices, not drugs) are still authorized.

    Camden educators say the modified policies reduced high school suspensions  from 916 in 2015-2016 to just 246 in 2016-2017; Grade K-8 suspensions declined from 545 to 412.

    What's even more important, the administration says, is that students spent a collective 6,642 additional days in class under the modified suspension policy. Isn't that what it's all about?

    It would be smart for other New Jersey districts -- especially white-majority ones where race-based discipline disparity can go undetected -- to look at the strategies that Camden has employed successfully.  

    It's not yet clear that New Jersey needs a law like California's to reduce overuse of suspensions. Meanwhile, all schools should operate under the belief that it's better to correct a discipline issue within the school setting than by simply tossing out the student.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    Marriage rates in New Jersey plummeted over an 11 year period from 1990 to 2011, but have made a slight comeback over the past few years.

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    No injuries were reported in the incident Tuesday morning.

    CAMDEN -- An underground fire and explosion blew off two manhole covers and rocked downtown Camden early Tuesday, according to a report.

    The incident occurred just after midnight on Stevens Street near Broadway, 6ABC.com reported.

    Firefighters extinguished the blaze shortly after arriving and no injuries were reported. PSE&G utility company said a transformer fire sparked the explosion, the report said.

    No power outages were caused by the incident.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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