Robberies Laid to Old Mansion as Thieves Den

Thieves Den - AI Stock Photo

Camden Courier-Post – January 26, 1928

Marauders Declared Using Former Reeves Home on State St. as Lair

POLICE TELL VICTIMS TO KEEP THEFTS QUIET

Aroused Householders Threaten to Act As Own Cops

Failure of city officials to heed repeated complaints that a deserted and dilapidated mansion at Third and State Streets is a “rendezvous of thieves, a haven for spooners, and a general nightmare” was blamed today by residents of that neighborhood for three robberies in one State Street block in two weeks.

Complaining residents declared today that they have appealed to officials for help without avail. They said that the former palatial residence of the late Augustus Reeve, brick manufacturer, has been a ‘den of thieves’ for some time. The police have been apprised of the situation, they reported, but have done nothing except “promise to investigate.”

Police have made public no reports of the three robberies that have occurred in the one block in two weeks. The victims themselves said today that city detectives told them “to keep quiet,” as release of any information might interfere with the arrest of a certain young man under suspicion in their own neighborhood.

The first robbery occurred at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George T. Moore, 313 State Street, on January 7. The Moore home is next to the broken down mansion and only a few feet away. Thieves, watching from the deserted house, whose side windows face those of the Moore residence, ransacked the dwelling after the family left that night for dinner at the home of friends. Entrance was gained by jimmying a side window, and money, jewelry, and two overcoats belonging to Mrs. Moore’s son, produce salesman, were stolen

Rob Bonstedt Home

A second robbery occurred six days later on January 13, at the home of W.G Bonstedt, 327 State Street, a few doors from the Moore home. The third was at 302 State Street, January 21. In the family’s absence, $250 and a number of silk dresses were stolen. This house is directly opposite the Reeve property.

“It was from the deserted old mansion, next door to us, that the thieves watched our movements and waited until we had left the house,” said Mrs. Moore today, “Then, when they saw we would be away for the night, they broke in and robbed us. It was the same case with the other two robberies in the block. The burglars could see when the families were leaving the house—they had a good view from their hiding place. Having no police protection, the owners of the ransacked houses were at their mercy.”

Moore said police have been told “time and again” that the abandoned mansion at the corner is a “public nuisance,” and that “it is frequented by thieves, spooners, and tramps.” He said the condition has existed since relatives of the late brick manufacturer moved out of the place five years ago, but city officials have ignored all complaints made by residents of the neighborhood. The place was sold to other parties and a “for rent” sign had been on it for a long period.

Declared a Menace

“Not only do thieves and other undesirables make their rendezvous there, but the property is used for immoral purposes” Moore asserted. “It is one of the worst menaces in the city, both from a sanitary and a moral standpoint. Women —except the class that has gone there to spoon—fear to go near the place by night, and the neighborhood in general has suffered considerably because city officials have failed to take steps to have the nuisance eliminated. It is a disgraceful condition, and the authorities should see to it that the owners be compelled to board up the property at once. Otherwise it will continue to strike terror in the hearts of the residents of the neighborhood, many of whom express the fear that unless something is done before long, more robberies might occur, or the old building might go up in flames and perhaps damage theirs and other property nearby.”

Moore declared that increasing robberies in the neighborhood might have been averted had the police been more alert.

“Laxity of the Camden police department in giving residents of our neighborhood adequate protection was plainly evident in the three robberies in the one block in two weeks,” Moore said. “I have not seen one policeman near my home for more than a year, neither morning, noon, or night. I understand, however, that two or three members of the force live in this very neighborhood, and that one of them passes the old mansion every day. Why they, or the men assigned to this beat, have not had their superiors take some action on the corner property I cannot understand.

To Be Own Policemen

“As for myself, I will shoot the first man to make another attempt to burglarize our home. If the police won’t help us, I suppose the best thing we can do is to be our own policemen and protect ourselves.

Similar complaints were made by other residents of the neighborhood who requested that their names be withheld, as they feared political reprisals and in one case loss of business, if it were known that they criticized any of the city officials.

In the meantime, a number of those interviews reported that plans are being made for the circulation of a petition, to be presented to the city commissioners, requesting them to take steps to have the abandoned mansion—which they termed a “nightmare”—locked against invasion by the thieves and other undesirables who have been making the ramshackle building their rendezvous.

The property is directly across from the James M. Cassady School, and part of its exterior d covered with theater posters.

The building to which the Cassady School pupils allude as “the haunted house,” in the time of its occupancy by the Reeves was the center of many noted social gatherings. Most of its windows have been broken by boys and other marauders have torn away the staircase and ripped the plaster from its walls.

Surviving members of the Reeve family, who had lived there, left the mansion after Mr. Reeve died; and the place has been gradually falling to ruin since. According to residents of the neighborhood, it is today not only a menace, but “one of the city’s worst eyesores.”


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