Camden’s crime out of control

When visiting Rutgers University, the Tweeter Center or Adventure Aquarium, please consider the toll. Not only does one have to pay $3 for the bridge to return from neighboring New Jersey, but now the trip

When visiting Rutgers University, the Tweeter Center or Adventure Aquarium, please consider the toll. Not only does one have to pay $3 for the bridge to return from neighboring New Jersey, but now the trip could also cost your life.

Camden fans should be proud because the city has just been named the most dangerous in the country, booting Detroit to a shameful second.

According to an annual survey by the Morgan Quitno Group, Camden’s murder rate is 51.2 per 100,000, nearly 10 times the national average of 5.7. Also disturbing is the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report which says the violent-crime rate in Camden has risen from 18.6 to 24.2 per 1,000 residents in just the past year. Such a degree of escalation should be alarming for Camden citizens as well as their neighbors across the river.

City officials blame the rising crime numbers on institutional problems, such as poor education, poverty and unemployment. If this truly is the case, fixing the problem becomes an overwhelmingly daunting task.

The city has been attempting to clean up its reputation for quite a few years, focusing much of its energy on increasing tourism to waterfront attractions.

It becomes evident now that tourism isn’t going to help rougher parts of the city, which still struggle with crime and are steadily deteriorating.

But what will help the crime problem? Development may only yield long-term improvements, and for now, the police are simply not getting the job done. Camden police expect to make 10,000 arrests this year, which most likely won’t even make a dent in the problem.

The only way that immediate results will be seen is if those who are closest to the crime take an active role in ending it.

This means residents of the most dangerous parts of Camden need to band together and create neighborhood watch groups.

While neighborhood watches are not all that intimidating, they are effective in preventing those who commit crime from gaining that mind-set in the first place. The key is to stop crime before it starts by educating those most likely to become involved.

In the case of Camden, Bill Shralow, a spokesperson for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, said the majority of the crime is specifically caused by males ages 18 to 24, a young segment of the population that may still be open to education. It is important that potential criminals fully realize how unacceptable the behavior is before the crime is committed.

Morgan Quinto’s rankings are comprehensive, based on statistics spanning six categories: robbery, murder, burglary, auto theft, aggravated assault and rape.

This means that Camden’s startling statistic is not characteristic of only one type of crime, further complicating the solution. The community cannot focus their attack on just one type of criminal act, but instead need to broaden their spectrum of combat.

Let us hope that Camden’s statistics do not decide to jump on the PATCO train and travel over to Philadelphia, currently not included in Morgan Quinto’s top 25.

In a study that separated cities with a population over 500,000 from the rest of the pool, Philadelphia placed sixth.

The proximity of this problem to Philadelphia should make those who work, live and travel to this city nervous.

Preventative measures should be taken now to ensure that Camden’s trend does not spread to further infect us as well. Crime can destroy a city, and Philadelphia may be teetering at the edge.

Until a resolution is reached, take great care when taking the family over to one of those wholesome Camden Riversharks games. You also may want to reconsider that delightfully inexpensive apartment across the river. And for those who already live in Camden, you may want to take an active role in trying to solve the crime dilemma. Otherwise, Camden may not have much of a future to look forward to.

Jacqueline D’Ercole can be reached at

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