Camden Mayor Dana Redd has high hopes for the city’s newly restructured police force.
In her State of the City address yesterday Redd said she imagines a city where residents walk around without the fear of crime and a time when several months might go by before another homicide would occur. It was her “I Have a Dream” speech because Camden a city with only 77,000 residents ended last year with 67 homicides.
“We must confront the immediate need of establishing a police presence in the neighborhoods to combat the criminals who think they can use Camden as their personal haven for their illegal business,” said Redd.
The mayor used her speech to layout how the city might get closer to that vision. Part of the plan is increasing the number of cops on the streets. This spring Camden will replace its police department with a new force that technically is part of a larger Camden County Police Department. By shutting down the Camden Police Department the city frees itself from union contracts and can hire more police officers at a lower rate.
“The Camden Police Metro Divsion will double the number of police officers in the city while significantly cutting costs,” the mayor said. She said this regionalized police force was recently tried in East Orange, N.J. resulting in a 77 percent drop in crime.
Another tool Camden is using to fight crime is surveillance cameras. Camden Mayor Redd said she has increased the number of Eye in the Sky cameras from 80 to 120.
Mayor Redd, who first took office January 2010, said improving Camden’s schools and increasing the number public/private partnerships are also key to improving the quality of life. She said if the city can make strides in public safety, schools and new development the people will begin to move back to Camden.