Camden County officials say crime down since replacing city police force

 Denise Bacchues has been a police officer in Camden for 16 years. (File photo, Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Denise Bacchues has been a police officer in Camden for 16 years. (File photo, Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

More than two months after Camden’s police department was replaced by a county-run force, officials in the New Jersey city say crime is down.  

County Freeholder Scot McCray said life in the long-dangerous city is changing. “People actually see a difference.”

The city’s struggle is personal for McCray, a Camden resident and the father of two young sons.  A county spokesman said in the month of May there was a 26 percent drop in reported crime compared to the same time last year, and that trend has held up through June.

McCray said one death is too many. “We’re not where we want to be but we’re definitely on course to see a better year than what we saw last year.” 

Last year Camden set a new record with 67 homicides, the worst since 1995. The county prosecutor’s office says there have been 30 so far in 2013.  

McCray said part of the new county approach includes freeing up officers from administrative tasks ― by training about 100 civilians to do that work.

“They’re not handling any type of weapon, they’re not in pursuit ― but what they are doing is a lot of the administrative work that officers would have to do, meaning that they’re taking reports, they’re dropping off reports, they’re managing some of the things at the crime scene,” he said

Under the county force, there are almost 300 officers patrolling Camden with plans to add 100 more. That would mean nearly three times as many officers walking a beat compared to when the city department was policing Camden. 

The Fraternal Order of Police and some Camden residents are suing to challenge the dissolution of the old department.

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