Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rooting out the Seamy Side

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rooting out the Seamy Side

Article excerpt

ENGLEWOOD -- In a building where intruders had smoked marijuana in the stairwells, passed out drunk in the hallways and had sex in the recreation room, the only activity on a recent morning was a warm greeting from Police Officer Tracy Temple.

"How you doin' Miss Irma?" he said, as he kissed 76-year-old Irma Wright on the cheek.

"I'm doing fine," answered the slight, soft-spoken senior, sitting near her favorite picture window in the lounge. "It's nice here."

It was a sign that life had returned to normal at the Vincente K. Tibbs Senior Citizen Building, where a drug and prostitution sting three months ago became international news and turned life upside down for residents.

The disruption, police say, was caused largely by two former fifth-floor residents, James Parham and Cheryl Chaney, who are facing charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a nuisance.

Parham, 75, is accused of allowing women inside the building who were known to work as prostitutes to pay for their drug habits. Parham allegedly admitted he provided prostitutes to younger neighbors. Chaney, 66, also was charged with possession of crack cocaine.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are to appear in Englewood Municipal Court on Aug. 6 with 54-year-old Selma McDuffie, a suspended school crossing guard who was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia after she allegedly was found in the building with a crack pipe.

Parham was evicted for not paying his rent, and Chaney voluntarily moved out last month, Housing Authority Executive Director Maria Iwano said. Both have been barred from the premises.

The seamy story was picked up by media worldwide and became fodder for TV talk-show host David Letterman and "Saturday Night Live." Residents and housing authority officials were overwhelmed with requests for interviews from scores of media outlets here and abroad. Temple said the onslaught of attention was "a necessary evil" to raise awareness and stop intruders from returning.

Temple and two other Englewood police officers have been patrolling the 152-unit public complex around the clock, reviewing surveillance videos, securing doors and getting to know the residents and their regular visitors. …

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