Life in Camden, NJ has never been fun. Frequently ranked as America's most dangerous city, whose only claim to fame are the corporate offices of Campbell's Soup, Camden is about to get even more dangerous as it is among the first to experience wholesale cuts to its government labor pool. Bloomberg reports that "as many as 383 workers, representing one-fourth of the local government's work force, are expected to lose their jobs, including about half the police force and one-third of the city's firefighters." It seems cuts have already commenced: "police officers are turning in their badges as part of deep municipal layoffs that began Tuesday." It's a good thing then that unlike the rest of the world, New Jersey does not (yet) have surging food inflation as otherwise one may be tempted to argue this could be a rather interesting hot spot in the future, especially with the local police force deciding to find better pastures even as it starts collecting 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Firefighters are planning to march to City Hall on Tuesday, and Mayor Dana Redd is planning a noon news conference to talk about the layoffs in a city facing a huge budget deficit and declining state aid.
The officers began turning in their badges Monday as it became clear that no last-minute deal was going to save many jobs.
Located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden is rampant with open drug-dealing, prostitution and related crimes. More than half of Camden's 80,000 residents, mostly black and Hispanic, live in poverty.
The anti-crime volunteer group Guardian Angels also says it will patrol Camden, as it has Newark, where there were major police layoffs in November.
The fire department, meanwhile, has already been relying on help from volunteer departments in neighboring towns. Interim fire chief David Yates, who retired Jan. 1, has warned that that layoffs will increase response times.
A local pastor says "the fear quotient has been raised," and a police union took out a full-page newspaper advertisement last week warning that Camden would become a "living hell" if layoffs were not averted.
Of course, this being Camden, the only thing that could really push the city to recreate the living conditions of Hades would be a surge not so much in the price of food, or even iPads, but crack cocaine. And according to the Chairman there is substantial slack in the drug production vertical. Which means there are at least a few months before Camden becomes ground zero for what happens when surging inflation and insolvent municipalities mix with curious consequences.