Murder Rate Down in Camden, N.J., Prompting Optimism

There were 23 murders in the city of 74,000 last year, down 66 percent from 2012, when officials moved to reorganize the troubled police department. There now are more than 400 sworn police officers in Camden, a city spanning nine square miles, with cops told to approach the job “as guardians and not warriors.”

Killings in Camden, N.J., have fallen to the lowest level in more than three decades, offering some hope that change is finally on the horizon for a city long plagued by violent crime, reports the Wall Street Journal. There were 23 murders in the city of 74,000 last year, down 66 percent from 2012, when 67 people were killed and elected officials moved to reorganize the troubled police department. There now are more than 400 sworn police officers in Camden, a city spanning about nine square miles, with cops told to approach the job “as guardians and not warriors,” said Police Chief J. Scott Thomson. “We’re changing the dynamics of neighborhoods, not by trying to arrest our way out of the problem but by trying to empower people in the city,” he said. “We view our service weapon and our handcuffs as tools of last resort.”

Residents and social service providers credit the revamped police force and its emphasis on community policing with helping lower crime. Improvements in schools and the economy have also helped make the city safer, local leaders said. Once a thriving industrial city, Camden fell into economic decline when manufacturing jobs began disappearing in the 1960s. Later race riots and worsening crime prompted many residents to leave. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie encouraged investment in Camden. “The rebirth of Camden is happening—not with government giveaways or tanks in the street—but with a bipartisan spirit and a can-do attitude,” Christie said last week. Although improved, violent crime remains a problem in Camden. Its murder rate remains higher than those of Chicago and Philadelphia.

from https://thecrimereport.org