This week, Camden, N.J., a small city of 77,000, registered its 53rd homicide, and it’s on pace to shatter the record of 58 set in 1995, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. This afternoon, an anti-violence group will plant a 53rd cross in the lawn outside Camden City Hall in honor of victim Michael Haller. “There’s an extraordinary amount of violence in Camden, and I think we’ve grown used to it,” said the Rev. Jeff Putthoff of Hopeworks, a nonprofit youth-development program. “We’ve normalized it, and that’s called trauma. The crosses are a way for us to pierce the silence.”
Camden Mayor Dana Redd, whose office sits across from the field of crosses, said she’ll continue to work with residents and community organizations to “let everyone know that all life matters. “The senseless acts of violence, especially when it involves innocent children, is truly disheartening,” Redd said. Camden’s murder rate was high before the record year in 1995, and poverty touched every neighborhood in the city then, too. The public-school system, like many other impoverished districts, struggled, and despite a healthy economy and major developments and attractions along the waterfront, there still weren’t enough well-paying jobs in Camden to support a strong middle class. The Camden Police Department is being replaced with a 400-member regional police department that will be made up of new hires and re-hired members of Camden’s current department.