Gunfire rings out often in the neighborhood, he says, a regular reminder of the crime wave that has this city of 77,000 on pace to double its homicides in just three years, and has already shattered a nearly 20-year record for killings. With 59 homicides so far this year, the murder rate is on par with levels seen in Haiti in the chaotic aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
"A bullet has no name. If somebody shoots and I'm walking, I could be hit," Johnson says. "People are afraid right now. You can see it in their faces."
The crime surge coincides with new census data identifying Camden, long battered by vanishing industry, as the most impoverished city in the U.S., with 42 percent of residents under the poverty line, and an average family income of $21,191. If trends persist, Camden may soon hold the grim title of both the country's poorest and most dangerous city.
As residents decry the violence, local leaders are readying a radical plan that they call the only practical solution at hand to calm the streets: the dismantling of the Camden Police Department and the outsourcing of policing to a new, cheaper force run by the county government, to be called the Camden Metro Division. They say the closure of the 141-year-old department and the creation of a new agency is necessary because the existing union-negotiated police contract is no longer sustainable in a time of deep budget deficits.
The plan was sold to Camden residents as a security fix: by firing the existing police force, they were told, millions of savings would be redirected into hiring about 130 new uniformed officers -- a 50 percent increase over current staffing.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment