One year after Camden, N.J., was among the nation's most violent cities, officials have found a way to lower crime and the cost of fighting it. All they had to do was dismantle their police department, says the Newark Star-Ledger. It's been six months since Camden's police were replaced by the Camden County Metropolitan Police Department, the first regional police force created in New Jersey. As of Dec. 1, homicides have dropped 20 percent in the city, while burglaries and robberies have also fallen significantly. Overall crime is down 14 percent.
The city joined with the county to form a regional police force in May, a move that has cut the average cost of a police officer in half. The state provided Camden with $10 million in startup funds for the department, and the city now pays the county for the service with a combination of tax dollars and state aid. Under the old city contract, $62 million would have allowed for roughly 250 officers to patrol the streets of New Jersey's poorest and most violent city, said Police Chief Scott Thomson. Now, that same figure could pay for more than 400 uniformed officers. Many consider the new department the first glimmer of hope in years for a city that has long served as an icon of despair, where nearly 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line.