Despite its small population of just 70,0000 inhabitants, Camden (NJ) has been in the top 10 of America's most dangerous cities for more than half a century with just some rare gaps. In fact crime rate in Camden rarely subsided too much since the time the city picked up its infamous criminal background reputation in 1949. For too long, Camden has been one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey, and in America. Plagued by drugs, homelessness and poverty, Camden had the highest crime rate in the nation among cities of 75,000 residents or more, according to CQ Press' City Crime Rankings 2014, which are based on an analysis of FBI statistics from 2013


external image CamdenSkyline-2003-1.jpg
external image CamdenSkyline-2003-1.jpg

"In a Dream, I saw a city Invincible" - Walt Whitman


Directly in the shadow of the glittering skyline of Philadelphia, Camden has long suffered the indignities that poverty breeds. A drive through the streets of the 9-square mile city reveals a moonscape of crumbling infrastructure and over 900 abandoned homes. Camden was once a manufacturing giant, home to RCA Victor, Campbell’s Soup and the biggest shipbuilding company in the world. However, once industries began to leave the city – as they did in so many other cities across the United States – many European immigrants moved to the suburbs leaving formerly economically booming cities like Camden as a part of the mass migration now called "White Flight" with nearly 60 percent of the white population gone by 1980 - while the black and Hispanic populations increased substantially. Then came a crushing blow to local moral: the race riots of 1969 and 1971, which left the city mortally wounded. What was already a tense relationship between citizens and authorities escalated significantly. The 1969 riots began when rumors circulated about a young black girl being beaten by the cops. A crowd of over 300 Camden residents gathered to protest and it resulted in the death of a rookie police officer, a teenager, and a riot that would redefine the city. In a 1991 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer then patrolman Timothy McCarthy called the riots "a regular war zone." The 1971 riots began when a motorist, Rafael Gonzales, got pulled over and killed by a police officer. When a woman was refused an explanation by the police, she led a group of protesters to City Hall, a second riot began and the city burned for three days. In the decades that followed, civic corruption and mismanagement rendered Camden increasingly poor and violent. As of 2015, three mayors have been indicted for corruption.

According to the city’s only recent years history of crime and violence, then total of 7,639 serious crimes were reported to Camden police in 2000. In 2002 the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report cited Camden, New Jersey, to have put on record 607 cases of robbery and 797 cases of aggravated assault, nearly double the national average. The 2004 crime statistics ranked Camden, New Jersey, as the nation’s highest crime rate city, up from the third place in 2003. Those rankings took into account a city’s crime rate for crime categories covering 6 basic crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. In 2004 Camden experienced an increase in every category over the same criminal statistics in 2003. Specifically, the murder rate was cited almost 9 times the national average of 5.7 per 100,000. The privately funded research in 2004 compared 354 cities with the population starting from 75,000 residents. Camden’s high poverty and unemployment is the most important factors feeding the community’s high crime rate.With relatively few local businesses and low property values, most of the city government's revenue comes from state taxpayers. In an attempt to keep control over the situation the Police try to make more arrests for minor offenses such as public drinking, playing loud music, loitering that all belong to the so-called quality-of-life offenses. These arrests are intended to prevent criminal offenses of more serious nature and to serve as a sort of warning for potential felons.This current tactics pursued by the police of Camden during the last 2 months starting the end of October 2012 seem to spread public skepticism as for it’s effectiveness. Citizens wonder if police expect to prevent street shootings, acts of homicide or drug-trafficking by arresting people for loitering. The fines imposed on the arrested for loitering are what many of them can’t afford to pay, while getting record of having been arrested or issued warrants start showing up in pre-employment background check reports, making it harder for subjects to find jobs, if not reducing the very possibility of getting employed to the next minimum.In 2011, state aid reductions contributed to a financial crisis for the city government, which had deep layoffs in all its departments, including cutting loose nearly half its police officers. This can also be attributed to immense daily absentee numbers for Camden police officers. Crime spiked as a result of the dismantling.

The number of open-air drug markets has been cut nearly in half. The the County-controlled police department took the place of the original force on May 1, 2013. This new force was comprised of Camden County's Metro division. The new department even created its first cold-case unit. This new implementation allowed for the number of hired police officers ballooned to substantially higher numbers. But mostly, the police have changed their culture. Officers have been moved from desk jobs and squad cars onto walking beats, Camden County officials released a series of crime statistics for the City of Camden from January through August of 2013 there has been a trend of reduced violent crime compared to the same eight-month period in 2012 and 2013.According to the police, there had been 35 murders in Camden by Aug. 31 in 2013, and 44 murders by the same time in 2012.

Camden crime 1.png
Camden crime 1.png

Camden's incarceration system
Riverfront Prison was a medium-security facility; Riverfront opened in 1985 and was designed to hold 408 inmates. In recent years it consistently housed more than 1,000 inmates, despite its new capacity of 631.The closing of Riverfront State Prison in Camden, which sat on the banks of the Delaware River, closed as a key to revitalizing Camden's long decaying waterfront and its adjacent neighborhoods. In their dreams for a city besieged by crime and unemployment, citizens envisioned concrete walls and barbed wire replaced by green parks and tidy homes. Riverfront State Prison has held Camden down since the day it opened on the waterfront, but union leaders and some lawmakers say the decision to close the prison was driven purely by economics, which could overburden county jails that house state inmates, and leaves little room for more inmates. When confirming the decision to close Riverfront, officials said the number of inmates in New Jersey's prison system had decreased by 5,000 inmates -- from about 27,500 to about 22,000 --over the past six years. In reviewing the records, The Star-Ledger found the population actually fell by just 387 inmates, during that time.

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As a result of closing the Riverfront prison, Camden's county jail faced overcrowded conditions that left hundreds of inmates sleeping on the facility's floors. Just five years ago, the Camden jail sharply reduced its inmate population in response to a class-action suit, with the total plunging from about 1,800 in 2009 to 1,210 a year later, court papers say. But that number has since climbed above 1,500, considerably higher than the jail's official capacity of 1,267 inmates. A big reason for the turnaround: More police are on the streets of Camden and its suburbs. That's pushed countywide arrests to a record high of almost 11,000 in 2013, flooding the seven-story lockup with new arrivals, according to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. Freeholders in May approved a $120,000 contract for Luminosity Inc., a Florida-based consulting firm that oversaw the previous population decline. They haven't returned to 1,800 or 2,000 (inmates), but it has hit 1,500 so there's a concern," said Marie VanNostrand, a Luminosity project manager. In 2009, we made 22 recommendations. Part of what they're asking us to do is review each one and make sure it's fully implemented."
The county's also created an "auxiliary admissions/booking unit" at Camden County Police headquarters. It will process the sizable number of people arrested by Camden County Police, a chore previously handled inside the jail. The county police department, launched in May 2013, has nearly tripled the number of police in Camden to almost 400 officers. That will do away with the necessity of bringing them to the jail, conducting medical screening and doing other tasks.

Camden County Prison History

Many criminals from the Camden or Philly region are placed in the Camden County Jail. The Camden County Jail is located on 330 Federal St in Camden, New Jersey. It was built in 1985. Most of its criminals are from the Camden. The Camden County Facility is committed to making the environment safe and humane. There was a point at time where the Camden County Prison was overpopulated and basically flooded with inmates. There were inmates sleeping on the facility floors. The Camden Jail reduced the number of inmates by a few hundreds. The capacity of inmates dropped from 1,500+ to 1,267.

Recent Policy

In 2012, a record 67 people were slain in the city 18 times the national rate.In the words of one advocate for crime victims, lawless people turned fearless as police disappeared from the streets.In the summer of 2012, the year this city broke its own record for homicides, there were 21 people murdered here. This summer, there were six. Beleaguered by crime, budget cuts and bad morale, the old force had all but given up responding to some types of crimes. Dispensing with expensive work rules, the new force hired more officers within the same budget — 411, up from about 250. It hired civilians to use crime-fighting technology it had never had the staff for. And it has tightened alliances with federal agencies to remove one of the largest drug rings from city streets.But mostly, the police have changed their culture. Officers have been moved from desk jobs and squad cars onto walking beats, in what Chief J. Scott Thomson likens to a political campaign to overcome years of mistrust. Average response time is now 4.4 minutes, down from more than 60 minutes, and about half the average in many other cities.
camden cop
camden cop

Police walking beats are supplemented with "virtual patrols" by civilians, who monitor 120 surveillance cameras bolted to light poles. An additional 40 to 60 private security guards, sporting yellow-and-blue vests, roam the business district, calling in reports to the command center.The increased presence has rankled some. They say the force is often heavy-handed. With the advent of the new police department making changes that they couldn't do because of the stranglehold of the police union. However, in January 2011, the state slashed the budget for the city's police department by nearly 23 percent. The police union was dissolved after half of the uniformed officers were let go. The department - criticized by some as incompetent and ineffective - was then reconstituted as a county-run enterprise. But until new recruits could be brought on, the city suffered under the draconian cuts. There were nights when only 12 officers patrolled the entire nine square miles of the city.The new force also adopted a zero-tolerance policy for quality-of-life offenses. Officers now pull over drivers for playing loud music or not wearing seat belts. Police recently have issued summonses for jaywalking. Not everyone is happy with increased engagement and the greater number of cops."Crime is way down because of the way they've done who was visiting his mother last month on Boyd Street. One year after Camden was among the nation’s most violent cities, officials have found a way to lower crime and the cost of fighting it. All they had to do was dismantle their police department homicides have dropped 20 percent in the city, records show, while burglaries and robberies have also fallen significantly. Overall crime is down 14 percent.The city joined with the county to form a regional police force in May, a move that has cut the average cost of a police officer in half. The state provided Camden with $10 million in startup funds for the department, and the city now pays the county for the service with a combination of tax dollars and state aid.Under the old city contract, $62 million would have allowed for roughly 250 officers to patrol the streets of New Jersey’s poorest and most violent city. Camden has done a lot to remove the reputation as the most danagrus city in America however, it has a long way to go and will eventually become a safe place to live as it once was before.
The Camden County Police Department is taking a step back in time with street beats and not just driving around the streets. Their goal is to get to know the community and what the community members want. They want people to feel comfortable coming up to them. The police have held meet-the-officer fairs at parks and churches, attended baseball games and sent Mister Softee trucks into neighborhoods. Officers stand at school crossings and on corners where drugs and violence flourished. Chief Thomson’s theory is that in a city of 77,000, there are thousands more well-intentioned people than bad, and that the police must enlist them to take back the streets. The city is split up into 4 districts to help monitor every part of the city.The crime rates have went down since the county police force took over. This police force is available to all municipalities in camden county but so far only camden has enrolled in it.

district map
district map

A popular critique of Camden’s police department is a system that is trying to change the community around. However, many residents of Camden still don’t trust the policy. So this will always make it hard for the police to safely portal the streets of Camden. Once rehabilitation is avenue for change for the repeat offender in Camden there will always be a crime problem. The new police department should work on the reputation they have and change the reason that they arrest people. In the Wiki we learned that Camden has had a low employment rate which at times has contribute to the increase in the crime rate however, with additional community support the unemployment rate should be addressed this might combat the crime problem.

Dyson, Crime in Camden, America's Most Dangerous City
February 16, 2009
Guy, Shoshana
America's 'invincible' city brought to its knees by poverty, violence
March 7 2013, 2:03 PM
Camden Crime Rate Drops With New Police Force
The Associated Press
Posted: 04/28/2014 8:45
Jason Laday | South Jersey Time s South Jersey Newspapers
Camden County Jail overcrowded again
September 03, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated September 03, 2014 at 3:37 PM
Jim Walsh, Courier-Post 3:21 p.m. EDT August 11, 2014
With crime down in Camden, many credit policing system

Camden County Police Department