(NorthJersey.com) – Some of the activities taking place at Englewood’s senior citizen housing complex were a long way from canasta, police said.
Englewood Police Officer Zellvon Lucas talking with residents at the Vincente K. Tibbs Senior Citizen Building.
A man, 75, and a woman, 66, suspected of using cocaine and running a prostitution ring out of their apartments at the Vincente K. Tibbs Senior Citizen Building have been arrested after residents complained about vagrants, drunks and addicts invading their building, authorities said.
The suspects and an alleged accomplice are believed to be behind a recent rise in crime that had residents afraid to come out of their apartments, authorities said. Their growing fears prompted an undercover investigation and new round-the-clock police patrols of the complex.
“Essentially, they were prisoners in their own building,” Chief Arthur O’Keefe of the Englewood police said of the residents. “I wasn’t going to allow that to continue.”
In late April, police arrested fifth-floor residents James Parham and his neighbor Cheryl Chaney on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a drug nuisance. Chaney faces an additional charge of possession of crack cocaine.
A third suspect, Selma McDuffie, a 54-year-old school crossing guard, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia after police found her with a crack pipe, police said. McDuffie has been suspended from her police-run crossing guard job in Englewood and threatened with arrest if she returns to the building.
Parham admitted providing prostitutes — mostly young women with crack cocaine addictions — to some of his younger neighbors in the building, Detective Capt. Timothy Torell said. More charges could be pending.
The Englewood Housing Authority, which manages the property at 111 West St., had no reason to bar either suspect before they moved in. Both had met the income guidelines and passed a criminal background check, an official said.
“They came up absolutely clean,” said Maria Iwano, the housing authority’s executive director. “They had nothing to prevent us from putting them in the building.”
The Englewood Housing Authority bars anyone with recent drug convictions or a violent criminal history from living in its buildings, Iwano said.
Chaney had no criminal record, and Parham had a few minor arrests years ago for disorderly conduct and other low-level crimes, O’Keefe said.
The 152-unit complex, exclusively for low-income people 62 and older, and disabled people 55 and older, has security cameras in the common areas and outside the building. One camera in the lobby allows residents to see who is there before buzzing them in. But the housing authority reviewed the footage after the fact, when someone complained about unwelcome visitors.
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