Words that feel weird to write or say, because they’re so rare: We have some … good news? … for Camden. Yes, that’s it: Good news for Camden!
And that good news is this: Camden may no longer be the murder capital of America.
Really. The New York Times reports the Jersey city right across the Delaware River from Philadelphia recently went 40 days without a homicide. That's just one of several metrics the paper uses to suggest the town is finally making a turnaround, 16 months after the city fired its police force and contracted out its law enforcement functions to the county:
• There are 411 police officers, up from 250.
• There are now 121 civilian clerks and analysts monitoring 121 surveillance cameras and gunshot-mapping microphones.
• And 120 unarmed "civilian ambassadors" in bright yellow shirts patrolling the city's main business districts.
• Response time by police to emergency calls is down to 4.4 minutes, down from more than 60 minutes.
• Shootings are down 43 percent.
• Violent crime is down 22 percent.
• Little League participation is up from 150 players to more than 500 — with some of those players being schlepped over from tonier Center City Philadelphia precincts.
Camden remains imperfect, populated by miles of abandoned buildings and with a violence rate that's still above-average. But residents are seeing the improvements:
“It’s absolutely a different place,” said Tim Gallagher, a social worker who talked to the Times. “You feel safe walking the streets now. The police officers aren’t afraid to come out of their cars and interact with the community, and that’s changed how people feel about them.”