project aimed at improving city safety, while supporting some of the city’s young adults in their burgeoning careers.
In August, the city of Camden launched a project to audit the streetlights in the Whitman Park area. The project was in partnership with Hopeworks, a nonprofit organization that helps young adults between ages 17 and 26 transition into long-term living wage careers. Members of the organization’s GIS (Geographic Information Systems) team mapped the neighborhood and tracked where streetlights are, assessed the conditions and determined whether the lights worked or not. The data recorded was added to an interactive map and shared with Camden’s Department of Public Works and PSEG.
Commissioner Jonathan Young, the liaison to the county department of public safety, talked about the importance of enhancing street lighting in every neighborhood in the city.
“Creating a safe and welcoming environment at night for residents and businesses starts with streetlights,” Young said. “The darker the night sky gets in any community the more public safety will be undermined for the families that need to traverse their streets at night. We know for a fact that the less light a neighborhood has when the sun goes down the higher the propensity for both property and violent crime and that is unacceptable here in the city and throughout the county in any of our neighborhoods.”
This is just one of several community-based, social impact projects that Hopeworks has completed for and with the city. The organization has also helped with city redevelopment plans and website design for several stakeholders on top of training the city’s youth for more than 20 years.
Chief Gabe Rodriguez applauded Mayor Victor Carstarphen for taking on the initiative and working with law enforcement to get the streetlights turned back on by the public utility who owns them.
“Ensuring our streets are illuminated at night is a tremendous environmental change that is absolutely necessary for us to protect our residents and do the best job we can to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Rodriguez said. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to have lit streets because when it is dark on a street with no working street lights in sight crime does rise and the criminal element views these areas as a playground. In addition, every resident of this city deserves to have lit streets and I want to commend the Mayor for making it a priority to have PSE&G turn the lights back on.”
Hopeworks has not only helped secure 125 jobs for young adults per year and lead to high-wage, permanent opportunities for young adults in the tech industry, but through its mix of training, trauma-informed care and real-world experiences, the organization has transformed the lives of city youth.
“The impact of this project extends far beyond the reach of the streetlights themselves,” said Lindajoy Jackson, Director of Business at Hopeworks. “This type of work enables us to provide life-changing opportunities for these individuals to grow their tech skills, build strong futures and, for many, break the cycle of poverty.”