Police Take Steps to Make Camden Safer

| May 7, 2014 11:04 AMvideo

NJTVNews Managing Editor Mike Schneider reports on the replacement of Camden, New Jersey’s city police force with a county-wide one and the impact it’s had on crime levels.

This is Camden. And this is a crime in progress. Police say the men in the middle of the screen in the video are drug dealers. But their dealing is about to be interrupted. Watch those two men moving toward them. They’ve got guns and a goal. The money those alleged drug dealers have pocketed. It’s the gunmen force their victims to the ground in a short, brutal encounter that doesn’t surprise some of the people who live here.

“This is ghetto, man, ghetto,” said a resident.

“It’s dangerous on the streets. It is rough,” said another resident.

But let’s go back to the crime scene, because in the midst of the mayhem, signs of progress. And it comes with lights and sirens and badges. Watch the first police officer chase down the gunmen, and when backup arrives, they get their men.

“And all the while we are talking to them and we are telling them that up on your right you have two guys with guns. The officer now is able to zero in on them and we get both of them and their guns,” said Chief Scott Thomson in the command center.

Criminals in Camden are just starting to learn that they are now being watched. The police command post is filled with screens that are connected to surveillance cameras all over the city. If something suspicious is going on, someone here can see it. When reports came in about an armed man barricaded in a house, the cameras caught Camden’s SWAT team responding to the scene.

“On a national average, if a person calls 911 and asks for help, it takes nine minutes for an officer to respond. Our response time is less than 90 seconds here,” Thomson said.

Thomson is chief of the Camden County Police, and used to command the city police force that was disbanded last year. He’s a local guy who rose up through the ranks and sees good police work as a way to save his city.

“When we started the transition there was obvious expectations of being able to immediately express crime. The reality is that we basically had the same amount of officers as before. We have been able to statistically drive down crime, a third, and more importantly gun violence is down over 30 percent,” Thomson said.

Read the full story here.

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