Crime in Camden, America’s Most Dangerous City
Despite its small population of just 70,0000 inhabitants, Camden (NJ) has been in the top 10 of America’s most dangerous cities for more than half a century with just some rare gaps. In fact crime rate in Camden rarely subsided too much since the time the city picked up its infamous criminal background reputation in 1949. That was the year when an unemployed Howard Unruh murdered 13 people in 12 minutes, having thus set the sad record of killing as many people in as little time – more than one per minute! – and becoming the first known single-episode mass murderer in the USA’s modern history.
If you review the city’s only recent years history of crime and violence, then total of 7,639 serious crimes were reported to Camden police in 2000. In 2002 the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report cited Camden, New Jersey, to have put on record 607 cases of robbery and 797 cases of aggravated assault, nearly double the national average.
The 2004 crime statistics ranked Camden, New Jersey, as the nation’s highest crime rate city, up from the third place in 2003. Those rankings took into account a city’s crime rate for crime categories covering 6 basic crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. In 2004 Camden experienced an increase in every category over the same criminal statistics in 2003. Specifically, the murder rate was cited almost 9 times the national average of 5.7 per 100,000. The privately funded research in 2004 compared 354 cities with the population starting from 75,000 residents.
“We must give our people jobs, training and opportunity,” said City Council Member Ali Sloan-El while talking before the public in 2005. The official then identified Camden’s poverty and unemployment as the most important factors feeding the community’s high crime rate. According to the Prosecutor’s Office Camden also got then a position in the list of America’s poorest cities.
Nonetheless, the year 2005 used to be seen by the Police and City Counsel as inspiring some valid hopes for the public safety improvement due to many police measures taken. Really, the start of the year 2005, from January to March, saw 24 percent decline in crime in Camden, providing more reason for the community optimism at the time than ever before.The city officials announced start of the program aimed to implement a proven aggressive crime-fighting technique called “crime mapping”.
They were hoping to follow Newark, the other former violent crime rate leader in America that had started off with similar project in 1996. The “crime mapping” pattern implemented in Newark was able to result in truly dramatic 43 percent reduction in reported crime as quickly as already by 1998. There was no reason doubting the same scheme would work for Camden too, the more so that according to the Inc. Magazine, early in 2004 the city of Camden had been ranked #6 out of 277 biggest cities as the most promising place to do business in. The unseen flow of investments that had started literally pour into the city’s infrastructure was expected to end up with poverty and unemployment and resolve the city’s major crime problems. Even if no expert or analyst expected any immediate results and hoped only for long-term improvements, the hope still persisted.
Three years have passed since then. So, what do we see now?
By the end of the year 2008 Camden did report some noticeable decline in violent crimes, such as aggravated assaults, assaults with firearms, and thefts. From the other hand 48 homicides were reported, exceeding 42 in 2007. The first six months of the current year produced so mane fatalities and serious bodily injuries that Camden risked to break its own 12 years old record of 58 homicides reported in 1995.
Even if some improvement did take place, the progress was not even nearly close to what was expected in the year 2005. Sad thing to say, but Camden keeps holding firmly its reputation of the city drowning in street violence. In an attempt to keep control over the situation the Police try to make more arrests for minor offenses such as public drinking, playing loud music, loitering that all belong to the so-called quality-of-life offenses. These arrests are intended to prevent criminal offenses of more serious nature and to serve as a sort of warning for potential felons. But do they?
This current tactics pursued by the police of Camden during the last 2 months starting the end of October 2008 seem to spread public skepticism as for it’s effectiveness. Citizens wonder if police expect to prevent street shootings, acts of homicide or drug-trafficking by arresting people for loitering. The fines imposed on the arrested for loitering are what many of them can’t afford to pay, while getting record of having been arrested or issued warrants start showing up in pre-employment background check reports, making it harder for subjects to find jobs, if not reducing the very possibility of getting employed to the next minimum.