Update: there are calls to disband the entire police force and start from scratch with a county based law enforcement program.
Called “one of America’s most dangerous cities”, not even the Camden crime rate could save them from the effects of a cash-strapped year. The Mayor of Camden announced this week the lay-offs of nearly half of the entire police department, not to mention a third of the city’s firefighters.
The mayor needed $8 million in concessions to save the jobs, concessions she wasn’t able to get. Among those were asking the officers to pay more for their health coverage or to accept salary freezes, union backed officers weren’t about to let that happen.
According to CNN.com, Camden has the second highest crime rate in the country, hardly the ideal place to layoff half of a police force. But layoff they did, with the cuts taking effect immediately.
In an effort to appease those who stated public safety would be adversely affected, the department demoted many from desk duty back to patrol. Ninety-two percent of officers will be on the streets with the majority of layoffs occurring at the administrative level. The union, however, and likely anyone else with a sense of how law enforcement works states that cuts on such a dramatic level will affect safety.
Police Chief Scott Thomson admits that they won’t be able to respond to non-injury accidents, minor thefts, or calls about vandalism anymore—that they simply don’t have the manpower for these less serious offenses.
Although Camden’s population has shrunk over the past several years, from around 120,000 to 79,000, the department will only be working with around 200 officers, a number that is remarkably small for such a high crime city.
Logic would tell us that fewer cops will mean more crime or at least a smaller percentage of crime being penalized. And while crime rates are dropping across the country, it will be interesting to see how the layoffs affect the crime rate in Camden.
The cuts will be felt but this doesn’t give people the free-pass to commit crimes. Though 200 officers doesn’t seem like much, their impact will still be felt. Criminal charges will continue to be levied and the local courts will likely remain overburdened.