Camden, New Jersey

Consolidating policing services between a city and county government in Camden

Population

73,973

Median household income

$26,105 (2017)

Annual city revenue

$32,658,570 (2018)

Key Takeaways

  • The Great Financial Crisis threatened the Camden police department’s ability to meet its financial obligations to staff and its responsibilities to residents.
  • Officials consolidated the municipal and county-level police departments in order to unlock savings and provide better services for city residents.

Background

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.

Financial Problem

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.

Policy

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.

Impact

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.

Long-term Effects

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.

Sources

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, October 13). Camden, New Jersey. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:01, October 19, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Camden,_New_Jersey&oldid=983373805

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/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-camden-disbands-police-force-for-new-department.html

Explore collaborations and pooling of resources

Cities and departments can achieve economies of scale and greater operational efficiency through collaboration. Integrating services between cities, purchasing collectively to improve bargaining power, or even merging with the county or another city are options that cities can pursue. Within a city, merging departments in similar areas or with similar functions can provide cost savings and improve business processes.

ASSESSMENT

Some questions to guide your thinking

  • At a city-to-city level, what collaborations might be worth exploring?
  • At a departmental level, what business functions could be centralized?
Example
Consolidating policing services between a city and county government in Camden

Consolidating policing services between a city and county government in Camden

Camden, New Jersey

Example

Consolidating policing services between a city and county government in Camden

Camden, New Jersey

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