Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cop Cuts in Camden, NJ

Camden plans to lay off half of its police officers and a third of its firefighters this fiscal year. What is to happen to this city that had the highest crime rate in the country in 2008? Although 2009 saw a little improvement, the city is still the second most dangerous place in the US. It has a population of about 78,000 and these alarming crime statistics:

Year to Date (November)
Murder 49 35 33 45 53 30
Rape 56 47 66 67 66 55
Robbery 822 702 771 781 813 690
Agg Assault 897 898 818 865 832 915
Burglary 1,159 1,020 1,178 1,128 1,218 919
Theft 2,775 2,332 2,424 2,311 2,680 2,036
Auto Theft 1,357 955 1,180 1,161 993 922
Arson 172 142 129 115 120 122

(Source:  Camden Police Department, UCR Status Report and Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, Rutgers University)

Camden against Downtown Philadelphia Backdrop
And what of the police officers, firefighters and other city workers who will be laid off?  How will they support their families and their mortgages?  Camden depends considerably on state aid; it has no tax base to raise revenue or cover its deficit.  From 2002 to 2010, the city was forbidden to raise property taxes.  PILOTs  or payments in lieu of taxes, were approved by state appointees so that large corporations in the city did not pay much taxes.  The New Jersey state budget cuts have further crippled the city.  Since the state takeover in 2002, not much effort has been put into luring investors here; the city has now been dropped like a hot potato. Whoever comes here these days, visits the aquarium or the Rutgers University (never after dark); the glory days of Campbell Soup, Lockheed Martin and RCA have long since been erased from its memory.  All we can look forward to are days of lawlessness.  Gangs will get a firmer foothold, and people who want a better life will just move. 

Camden--Near Drop
I think the government should now think in terms of planned demolition of the city.  Urban planning to bring about urban renewal. Maybe that will provide more jobs?  Companies could be persuaded to build around the Rutgers University campus providing employment to new graduates thereby extending the safety zone in the city.  Schools hours could be extended, so children's activities could be supervised.  They would have no time for gangs and would learn a little civic sense.  Salaries are a small price to pay for the overall mental and economic health of the community. Society needs growth--maybe this is the way to help it grow.


No comments: