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Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Angel Fuentes and Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson and Sen. Donald Norcross that aims to give law enforcement enhanced tools to effectively combat drug crime was approved Thursday by the Assembly.

The bill (A-2416) sponsored by the 5th Legislative District legislators would give a law enforcement officer or prosecuting attorney, under certain circumstances, the ability to apply for a restraining order against a person who is charged with a criminal offense but released without being detained.

This would fill a gap in the current system and would allow the authorities to prevent an individual from returning to the scene where the offense occurred, as well as a buffer around that area. The sponsors said it would especially help combat drug crimes.

“It is too easy for individuals being charged with a crime, particularly crimes related to drugs and drug violence, to return to the same places and people that facilitate this behavior,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “If we want to stop a drug dealer from harming our community, we cannot just work to take away their product. We also want to take away the street corner, the school yard and the store front where they push their poison on our children and our vulnerable.”

“This is a needed change,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “A drug dealer needs access to users, and by denying them their usual haunts and removing them from their comfort zone, we force them into the light and send a message that we won’t tolerate the evil they bring to our neighborhoods. We won’t stand idly.”

“We must give law enforcement the tools they need to keep our streets clean,” said Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Drug dealers don’t care about the communities they harm, the lives they ruin, and the violence they bring to our neighborhoods. Every street corner we take away from a drug dealer is a street corner we reclaim for honest, hardworking citizens.”

The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 75-0 and now goes to the Senate for more consideration.