Camden County Police Dept. Celebrating 5th AnniversaryLast Edited:
Freeholder Louis Cappelli Jr., recalls a time where the crime in Camden was "out of control" and knew changes needed to be made.
And they have.
“The then-Camden City Police Department simply was not getting the job done," said Cappelli.
Which is why five years ago, the Camden County Police Department replaced the Camden City P.D. and transformed the whole dynamic.
There were many positive changes, according to officials.
"It started from the top down, a whole paradigm shift where every officer is involved in community policing every moment of the day," said Lt. Zsakhiem James, of the Camden County Police Department.
Before the Camden County Police Department, the Camden City Police Department had a specific community policing unit. Now, the Camden County Police Department, which is roughly 400 officers, is the community policing unit.
"The residents of the city, as a result of the community policing efforts now look at our police offers as partners," said Cappelli. "They don’t view them as the opposition."
"Enabling the citizens to be a part of the solution, we realized that’s how it had to happen," said James.
"We couldn’t arrest our way out of the problem. So what we had to do was come back, reinvigorate the communities, go through the community block by block, stabilize those blocks and allow those blocks to spread. They say one bad apple spoils a bunch, the one idea was the get rid of the bad apples, save the bunch. Get in there with the community and empower them to come back, have kids back on the sidewalk riding their bikes.”
Since the Camden County Police Department took over in 2013, crime has significantly dropped.
According to experts, non-violent crimes are down almost 40 percent.
Homicides are down 30 percent, and there has been a record-low rate of homicides so far this year.
The department also does many non-traditional things to get involved with the community, like playing sports with local children, hosting block parties, barbecues and bringing around the Mr. Softy truck.
"Everyday, we encourage officers to get out of their cars and interact with the citizens," said James.
"We don’t want to meet you and our first encounter be in a time of crisis. We want to meet you way before that so we’re members of the community. We don’t want to be just an occupying force, we want to be integral into the community and to be a part of the community. So when you look at us, it’s not just, ‘Hey that’s the police.’ No, ‘That’s Officer James, that’s Officer Smith, that’s Officer Jones. I know him, he knows me, he knows my grandkids, he knows everything.’”
To go along with this theme and to celebrate its fifth anniversary, the Camden County Police Department is hosting a free carnival this Sunday, May 6, at the Cooper's Poynt Waterfront Park in Camden. Come out for a day of food and fun with your local officers.
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