2012 was a sobering year for the Camden Police Department, as there were no less than 67 homicides in this New Jersey city. Police officials took the drastic measure of cutting the police force in half as a result, which included the city’s homicide and drug task forces.
With some comparing the city to a third-world country last year, Camden was among the most violent cities in the nation. And from all appearances, the solution lied with dismantling the police department and starting over.
Decreases in Crime Spark Hope in the City
It has now been 6 months since the Camden Police Department was replaced by the Camden Metropolitan Police Department, the first of its kind in New Jersey. The creation and implementation of this new police force has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in crime in the city as of December 1. Overall crime, including burglaries and robberies, is also down about 14 percent.
It was after 2012’s bloody year that the city made the decision to join with the county to create a regional police force, a force that was created, in part, from a $10 million start-up grant from the State of New Jersey. The City of Camden now pays for the regional police department with tax dollars and state aid.
The old contract included the allocation of $62 million, which included about 250 officers who were assigned to patrol some of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in the city. Under the new contract, that same amount of money could pay for more than 400 uniformed officers.
Currently, the Camden Metropolitan Police Department has 250 officers and, by most accounts, has provided a glimmer of hope to a city that has long been considered a lost cause and a symbol of American despair. About 40 percent of all residents in Camden live below the poverty line.
The Camden Metropolitan Police Department has many safety initiatives in place, including a continuity of officers who are assigned to specific neighborhoods. Their constant presence has allowed them to get out of their cars and get to know the people who live there.
A Model for Other New Jersey Cities
The success of the new Camden police department may end up being a model for other cities like Newark and Trenton, both of which have experienced their share of violent crimes as a result of large-scale layoffs. In fact, Governor Christie recently praised the success of the new Camden Metropolitan Police Department and suggested that he would like to see the model expand to other problematic cities throughout the state.