State kicks in $400M for Revel but won?t pay to get mentally ill off the street

By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist

Last week, in broad daylight, an 80-year-old woman from Canada and her 47-year-old daughter were walking along Pacific Avenue across from the Bally?s Casino in Atlantic City.?? Like many visitors, they were approached by one of the hundreds of mentally ill homeless persons who walk around the streets, shops, casinos and boardwalk of Atlantic City day and night.


But for some reason ? or no reason ? this homeless person, Toni Pelzer, allegedly attacked the daughter with a 12-inch butcher knife, knocked her to the ground, and tried to grab her purse.?? When the daughter didn?t let go quickly enough, Pelzer stabbed her repeatedly in the back, piercing her heart and killing her.
Pelzer also repeatedly stabbed the mother when she tried to protect her daughter. The mother quickly bled to death, even though the emergency room of AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center was just around the corner.

The next day, the headlines of the Philadelphia Daily News screamed ?Tourist death trap ?

2 Canadians stabbed in A.C. ? with cop nearby.? Other newspapers and TV stations around the country gave similar coverage.

In this case, the killer was known for some time to be schizophrenic. In 2009, 88-year-old Catherine McGowan was stabbed to death in Linwood by a neighbor who was considered by police to be violent and ?deranged? for a long time. In 2008, Ronald Weed, who had a long history of refusing treatment for paranoid schizophrenia, beat his mother and sister to death in Galloway Township.

After the 2008 murders, Sen. Jim Whelan worked with fellow Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine to adopt a new involuntary-treatment law that would give state and local government the authority and $10.2 million to arrest, confine and treat roughly 4,800 people in New Jersey who are known to be dangerous and mentally ill.

But Republican Gov. Chris Christie refused to fund the program. The people I talk to in the mental health care system tell me that it is now almost impossible to lock up anyone who is dangerous and mentally ill until they attack and kill somebody. Although Ancora Psychiatric Hospital can hold several thousand patients, it refuses to accept any new patients that would bring its population much above 700.

Right after last week?s murders, police and mental health workers did a thorough sweep of the streets, alleys and under the boardwalk of Atlantic City. They wanted the homeless out of sight while Gov. Christie and the rich and famous were in town for the opening of the $2.4 billion Revel hotel and casino.

One woman picked up in that sweep attacked a police officer and kicked him in the groin. She was brought to the psychiatric intervention program unit of the local hospital, but was released and put back on the street within 45 minutes. To the best of my knowledge, no charges were filed, and it?s anybody?s guess where the woman is now.

Chris Christie and his new friend, Democratic Senate president and union boss Steve Sweeney, say they will ?spare no expense? to revitalize Atlantic City.

And so state government borrowed and spent $400 million to finish the Revel casino. It created a new Tourism District ?commanded? by a ?retired? state employee with a $90,000 taxpayer pension plus a $90,000 taxpayer salary. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is spending a fortune in Atlantic City. And they shook down the casinos for a $150 million ?Do AC? public relations campaign.

But so far, neither Republican Christie nor Democrat Sweeney have spent a nickel to get dangerous, mentally ill homeless people off the streets of Atlantic City.

On the contrary, lots of charities and government agencies all over the northeast spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax money to ship their dangerous and mentally ill homeless to Atlantic City. Why?

First, politicians make friends when they spend money on expensive union construction projects. Or buy expensive ads from the newspapers, radio, and TV stations that give them the news coverage they need.

But politicians don?t want to appear mean, make enemies, or lose votes by daring to criticize feel-good charities ? including local homeless magnets like Sister Jean?s Kitchen, the Rescue Mission, or the drug rehab center at the old YMCA building in Atlantic City.

Other charities, government agencies and hospitals depend on the millions of dollars from government grants and health insurance they get to counsel and medicate the mentally ill homeless ? and send them back into the streets.

(Reprinted from May 30, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties,

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see, email or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.

(Image Source –×307.jpg)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top