America's Deadliest And Poorest City Set To Disband Its Entire Police Force Over Budget Crisis
While the stock market in the US continues to surge (if not so much in China where the composite is back to 2009 lows) as the relentless liquidity tsunami makes its way into stocks, and other Fed frontrunning instruments, and only there, reality for everyone else refuses to wait. Last week we saw reality striking in Greece, where a section of Athens literally shut down after it ran out of all cash. Today, reality comes to the US, and specifically its poorest city, Camden, which is a twofer, doubling down also as America's deadliest city. It turns out Camden is about to become even deadliest-er, as its police force is set to be disbanded following a budget crisis in this effectively insolvent city.
This city, long among the nation's poorest and most crime-ridden, is on the verge of dismantling its police department and starting anew with a force run by the county government.
City officials are making the move to increase the number of officers while keeping the cost the same by averting rules negotiated with a union that city officials have seen as unwilling to compromise.
Unless the union - which is skeptical of the stated motivations for the change - reaches a deal with the county, no more than 49 per cent of the city's current officers could join the new force and those that do will get pay cuts.
John Wilson, a 57-year-old unemployed baker who's lived in the city his whole life, thinks it's worth a try.
'The police in Camden clearly haven't been doing their job,' he said last week as he walked to his home in the Parkside neighborhood, which has seen six homicides since the start of 2011.
'Any change has to be better. It can't get worse now.'
Oh yes it can. Here's why:
Officials say there are about 170 drug markets operating in this city of 77,000 near Philadelphia, more than 700 people on parole and 600 registered sex offenders.
The murder rate is unthinkably high. In 2007, Newark attracted national attention for a record number of homicides.
As of Friday, there had been 47 murders this year. The city record of 58 was set in 1995.
One can only hope this is not a harbinger of what is coming to all American cash flow, not money dilution ability, ends. Sadly, for Camden there is no more hope.
The city has the nation's highest poverty rate with more than two residents in five living in poverty, census data show.
The big factories that once made Camden an industrial boomtown have been gone for a generation.
Over the past decade, revitalization efforts focused on expanding hospitals and universities, which brought some life to downtown but had a less discernible effect on neighborhoods where even the best-kept blocks have abandoned homes.
The city expects only $25 million of its $150 million next proposed budget to come from property taxes. Most of the rest is supplied by state aid - and that's declining.
Think massive ECB bailouts, which in the US are far more streamlined. As for the local residents who still are paying property taxes, it may be prudent to just take your real estate losses and move on. Or else...
In January 2011, the city government conducted massive layoffs, including nearly half the police department and about one-third of the firefighters.
Since then, all the laid-off public safety workers have been called back, but their numbers have fallen through attrition.
Now, there are 270 police officers, down from 450 in 2005 and 368 the day before the layoffs.
Police Chief Scott Thomson, who is slated to lead the Camden County Police Department's Metro Division, points to crime statistics for the two years before the layoffs that showed the crime declining.
He says it's because of intensive community policing efforts that came about when detectives were reassigned from desk jobs to patrols and the force was able to be more proactive.
With the smaller force, he said, walking and biking beats are used more sparingly.
In the meantime, the local cops are all preparing to bail as entitlement funding runs out
The Fraternal Order of Police lodge that represents Camden's rank-and-file officers is upset that they have not been presented with a formal plan.
Cappelli says officers in the new department would have base salaries that are the same or higher than what they make now - ranging from $31,000 for a rookie to about $80,000.
Officers' health insurance contributions would increase, and officers would also lose longevity and shift differential payments that combined can boost their pay up to 22 per cent.
The plan is to start hiring for the new force in October and have a mix of city and county police patrol the city during a training period before shutting down the city department sometime in the first few months of 2013.
The plan will not work. Good luck Camden: you will need it in your transformation to the first circle of US hell, soon to be joined by many more.
And here are some pictures of just what Dante would see in his modern descent into America.
Shocking crimes: A Camden police officer stands in the doorway of a home on August 22 in New Jersey's most impoverished city, where authorities say a 2-year-old boy was decapitated, apparently by his mother