Camden is a city in and county seat in New Jersey located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Historically, Camden relied on a vibrant manufacturing sector but during the 1950s, manufacturers began gradually closing and moving out of the city. The loss of manufacturing jobs led to a sharp population decline and “white flight.” The white population declined from 86 percent in the 1950s to less than five percent in the 2010s.
Deindustrialization and white flight transformed the face and economy of Camden. Today, Blacks and Latinxs make up more than 90 percent of the city’s population and the city is the home to a variety of educational and medical institutions which make up roughly 45 percent of the city’s total employment.
Reduction in the Camden police budget from 2009-2011
Camden’s compromised financial situation during the 2008 recession forced the city government to implement severe budget cuts. Annual budget allocation for the municipal police department decreased by 25 percent during the recession (from $41.4 million in 2009 to $31.5 million in 2011). The cuts threatened the financial viability of the police department, which represented the largest budget line in a city with one of the highest crime rates in the nation.
In 2013, after years of salary cuts and personnel reductions, the city government decided to disband its municipal police department and replaced the service with a new division within the county-level police department.
Estimated annual savings of the consolidation of police departments
After the dissolution of the municipal police department, the city contributed $62 million to the county for operational expenditures and leased its police building for the symbolic amount of one dollar. The estimated annual savings of the consolidation was $14 million. The city rehired its police officers as county employees and managed to reduce the average annual cost per worker by almost half, from $182,168 to $99,605.
Consolidation of police departments enabled Camden to cut a large financial burden from its annual budget and reduce crime. Since 2012, property crimes have dropped 45 percent while homicides are down by 67 percent.
Although almost every sworn officer joined the new county’s police division, savings came at coast of reduced salaries and benefits. However, these savings have allowed the county to expand its police presence to become one of the best-staffed police departments in the country and effectively reduce crime. In 2017, there were 23 murders in Camden, the lowest number in the city in three decades.
Wikipedia contributors. (2020, October 13). Camden, New Jersey. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:01, October 19, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camden,_New_Jersey
Camden, N.J., the Murder Capital of the Country, Disbanded Its Police Force. Governing. Retrieved 20:01, October 19, 2020, from https://www.governing.com/archive/gov-camden-disbands-police-force-for-new-department.html