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December 31, 2016

Camden County freeholder: Another year of progress in policing

Opinion Police
09302015_CamdenCityHall Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Camden City Hall

Camden City saw another year of progress in law enforcement and another year-over-year decrease in total Part One crimes, shooting hits and aggravated assaults with a firearm.

To put that in perspective, only three years ago, there were about 1,000 more victims of crime in the city from 5,263 in 2013, down to 4,277 in 2016.

While we note these indicators are good and show improvement the real success for the department is in the parks and playgrounds where we see the hundreds of kids playing soccer, baseball and football. It’s with the commitment and investment of the $2.5 billion in economic development moving into the city and most importantly it’s with the improvement of the high school graduation rate and the decline of the overall dropout rate in the school district.


Freeholder Director Louis Capelli Jr.

By a survey of city students, we know kids feel safer walking to and from school than they have in decades through Camden and that is a direct tribute to our officers.

That said, the core principle to our progress is continuing our commitment to community policing and working with children, stakeholders and families to strengthen the city. Our officers continued to act as guardians on the streets and face down significant challenges to advance the safety of their assigned police district. Over the course of the year, our police officers were a beacon for innovative training and empowering engagement. They responded to hundreds of calls for a man with a gun in 2016 and did not discharge their service weapon.

Police officers continued robust training to preserve the sanctity of life for all parties involved in conflict and will continue to tactically work to defuse situations through de-escalation.

In 2016, the department expanded our reading program, Bookmates, to children in all four police districts, including charter schools, to further construct connections with our youngest residents. They knocked on doors to introduce themselves to neighbors and continued visits to the patients at the Ronald McDonald House. In addition, our detectives continue to work with our most vulnerable youth with the city’s social service providers and clergy in Project Guardian. This gang intervention initiative has made progress with children and teenagers who have had prior run-ins with law enforcement. This is only a small fraction of the work our agency has done over the year in the community, but it shows their support for the city and their obligation to its residents.

Nevertheless, there is more work to be done and many promises to keep as we move forward into 2017 and the future. We know that there is an imperative to continue to get illegal guns off our streets and focus on decreasing homicides. This year, almost half of the city’s homicides occurred over a two-month period of time from late March to the end of May when our staffing was lagging because of a delay in the state Civil Service Office.

Now with almost 400 officers we will continue to build on our successes and do everything in our power to preserve life and enhance the community has it continues its transformation.

The most recent announcements, like the $13 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for new market-rate housing in Centerville and the $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods Implementation to assist children, continue to inspire hope and give us the ability to make positive, permanent change for Camden.

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Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. is a resident of Collingswood and the architect of the Camden County Police Department.