Planned arrivals of Subaru, Lockheed Martin, and 76ers, plus success of County police force put Camden on the rise
Over the past year a city that was once mentioned only as among the nation’s poorest and most dangerous has seen the fruits of a long-awaited but now tangible turnaround.
The City of Camden has seen a 50 percent reduction in homicides, the city and state have implemented a plan to reform Camden’s education system, and the Economic Opportunity Act has provided attractive financial incentives and improved investor confidence to draw businesses back to the city.
Not only is crime down, but development is booming. Consider just a few of the highlights:
• Lockheed Martin, Holtec, the Philadelphia 76ers and more big organizations are coming to the Downtown,
• Campbell’s Soup is developing an office park adjacent to its world headquarters, in which auto giant Subaru will relocate its US headquarters,
• Two million people a year flock to the city’s waterfront to visit destinations such as Adventure Aquarium, Campbell’s Field, the Susquehanna Center, and the Battleship New Jersey,
• The Salvation Army has opened the 120,000 square foot Kroc Corps Community Center in the city’s Cramer Hill section, and
• The City is a burgeoning center for “eds and meds, “ with the expansions of Cooper Hospital and Rutgers-Camden, the advent of the M.D. Anderson Cooper Cancer Center, the Rowan Med School at Cooper, and the Coriell Institute..”
There are also plans for retail and residential construction, plus a plan to eventually connect the Gateway District (at Campbell’s Soup) with the waterfront, making the city more walkable and livable for corporate employees.
Nothing illustrated the City’s revival more than a visit from President Obama on May 18th.
During his visit, the President the President highlighted what he praised as “innovative steps taken by a city that has struggled with one of the nation's highest violent crime rates to create economic opportunity, help police do their jobs more safely, and reduce crime in the process.”
The President noted that changes have included increasing the number of police officer boots on the ground and changing the way their officers interact with the community.
He also praised the Camden County Police Department for instituting a community policing initiative, and noted that “just last month, the city accepted the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge and was separately designated as a Promise Zone, representing the culmination of five years of collaborative efforts aimed at improving the quality of life for Camden children, youth, and families.”
Noting the impact of collaborations, Mayor Dana Redd says “None of our city’s accomplishments stands alone—each is the result of collaborations between public and private partners working together to create solutions for meaningful change.”
And the Mayor’s optimistic assessment has been mirrored at the state level, as well. Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno cites “the incredible growth that has come from the strong partnerships we’ve developed between government, business and the community.
“And the benefits aren’t just in Camden – we have seen the positive impact spread throughout the entire region…we are proving that Camden is a great place to do business.”
Echoing the optimistic view of the City’s future, Scott O’Neil, 76ers CEO, adds, “Camden's Waterfront redevelopment is of incredible importance to the Philadelphia 76ers, and we are proud to play a role in its revitalization through our new Training Complex.”
The President also discussed how communities are adopting the recommendations of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and highlighted new tools all cities can utilize to build and maintain “the all-important trust between the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day, and the communities they have sworn to serve and protect.”
Camden is one of 21 jurisdictions participating in the White House Police Data Initiative: Using Data and Technology to Build Community Trust.
“Even when local law enforcement agencies are willing to explore new ways to use and release such data, there are often technical and other impediments to doing so,” the President said during his visit.
“To break down barriers, the White House, with assistance from foundations like the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, launched the Police Data Initiative (PDI) with police chiefs and municipal Chief Technology Officers from sixteen jurisdictions that we expect to be leaders in this space. Since the launch, five additional jurisdictions joined the effort.
“As part of the initiative, these jurisdictions are working alongside technologists, community organizations and police associations to implement multiple commitments to action that leverage open data to increase transparency and build community trust, better utilize early warning systems to identify problems, increase internal accountability, and decrease inappropriate uses of force.
Camden is also participating in a program called Early Warning Systems and Data Research.
The President noted that “While many police departments have systems in place, often called “early warning systems”, to identify officers who may be having challenges in their interactions with the public and link them with training, there has been little research to determine which indicators are most closely linked to bad outcomes.”
To tackle this issue, twelve police departments—including Camden—have committed to share data on police/citizen encounters with data scientists for in-depth data analysis, strengthening the ability of police to intervene early and effectively.
The President also announced that the city would welcome a Police Data Initiative Tech Team, a volunteer team of technology experts and data scientists that will spend two days with Camden PD.
“They will focus on key technology systems with a goal of helping the Camden police enhance analysis and gain greater insights on officer activity. The goal is for the Camden PD to begin developing the solutions to potential problems before they happen while pointing to best practices that other departments can follow,” said the President.