Eight years after federal community-policing initiatives put 84 new officers on the streets of Camden, N.J., the funds have evaporated, criminals who were locked up are returning, and drug-related homicides continue to plague the city, reports the South Jersey Courier-Post. Many cities like Camden have been struggling with the loss of community-policing initiatives that provided $7 billion in federal funds between 1994 and 2001. Camden received $12.1 million in federal policing aid that allowed the city to hire additional officers and upgrade crime-fighting technology.
With 31 homicides logged in Camden as of Saturday, the city could exceed last year’s toll of 33 killings. Featuring the state’s densest population of parolees and probationers and growing traffic in illegal guns, Camden may be experiencing the delayed effects of the 1990s anti-crime efforts, said Richard Harris, director of the Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers-Camden. “The big crackdown on gangs and drugs 10 years ago — a lot of them are coming out now,” Harris said. “If you take people arrested for lower offenses, they become hardened criminals, and they come back to their cities with a new skill set.” Many former inmates leave prison with gang affiliations, said Tracy Swan of the Camden Safer Cities Initiative at the Rand Center. “They’re pretty sophisticated organisms that are doing recruitment in prison.”