The owners of a troubled township property are taking steps to quell neighbors’ concerns after being confronted with stories of drugs and other shady activity.
Pam Collins, chief development officer at Twin Oaks Community Services, said the organization is “deeply concerned” over the allegations neighbors have recently made regarding activity at the home on Villa Avenue, which is owned by Twin Oaks.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” she said Tuesday.
First and foremost, she said, Twin Oaks has banned the man who seemed to be causing the most consternation, William Clifford.
According to neighbors, Clifford had been staying at the home and was related to the female tenant. He was arrested on Sept. 24 and charged with burglarizing a residence on Villa Avenue, in which police said he stole $749 in electronics. Moorestown Police arrested Clifford—whose address is listed as Maple Shade—again on Oct. 9 on possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to Sgt. Lee Lieber, who said he believes Clifford is currently free on bail.
Neighbors lodged other complaints against the property, including suspected drug activity, with cars coming and going at all hours of the day, and prostitution.
Lieber said the department is increasing patrols in that area and urging residents to call if they see any suspicious activity.
“We’re obviously seriously concerned about allegations of drugs and prostitution,” he said. “We’re taking definitive action. But we can’t sit and wait for something to happen unfortunately … We don’t have the materials to do a stakeout.”
Collins said Twin Oaks has contacted the tenant as well and said she is cooperating. The home was previously owned by Family Service and used as a transitional home for mentally challenged individuals. However, since Family Service merged with Steininger Behavioral Care Services earlier this year, the property is used for affordable housing for individuals who are homeless or near-homeless, according to Collins.
Twin Oaks also intends to work with the township and residents to resolve the ongoing issues with the property over the long-term, Collins said. “When this has occurred in the past, we have worked with the neighbors, we’ve worked with the township.”
Collins said the organization has guidelines for eviction, “and if that's the conclusion after meeting with the township and the police, that’s where we’ll go.”
Township manager Scott Carew said he plans to meet with Lieber and a representative from Twin Oaks this week. Carew said he also advised zoning officer Pete Clifford to inspect the home for code violations.
"We want to work with Twin Oaks to make sure we resolve not just the current situation, but also that we successfully avoid (any future problems)," said Carew.
In a statement released Tuesday, Twin Oaks CEO Bob Pekar said, “Twin Oaks cares deeply about the individuals and families we serve and also the surrounding communities. We truly appreciate the positive relationship we have had over the past 40 years with the Moorestown community. Everyone at Twin Oaks is alarmed with this news and we will do everything we can to address these important concerns.”
Collins encouraged residents to contact Twin Oaks at 609-267-5928 if they have concerns.