Camden Cops Get Bonus Pay to Work Day Shifts! And Other Tales of Municipal Insanity

Camden, New Jersey has been a hell-hole for as long as I can remember. Indeed, I remember reading a Wall Street Journal story in the late 1980s about "America's Forgotten Cities" which included both Camden and Newark in New Jersey (along with East St. Louis, Illinois if memory serves). The most stunning bit about the story was how there were so few landowners of record left that Camden had the highest property taxes in the Garden State. Which of course sped up the process by which owners abandoned properties. 

Like a lot of U.S. cities, the population of Camden peaked in 1950 and is now a bit more than half that high point at 77,000. South Jersey old-timers would tell you about how they used to go there for the shopping back during World War II and into some part of the 1950s before the place flatlined even as RCA and Campbell's Soup stuck around for decades more. The contractor I worked for in Philadelphia in the late 1980s told me he had to stop doing jobs in Camden because too much stuff got ripped off all the time. Headlines like this 2000 classic - "In Camden, another mayor is indicted on corruption charges" - are SNAFU for Camden.

 Via Omar Wasow's great Twitter feed comes this New York Times profile of a city so dysfunctional it sounds like Franz Kafka on steroids. City leaders now are disbanding the unionized police force so they can hire more and cheaper cops. The goal is to can the remaining 273 union cops so they can hire 400 cops to patrol a city that is both the nation's poorest and one of the most broke ("Camden’s budget was $167 million last year, and of that, the budget for the police was $55 million. Yet the city collected only $21 million in property taxes.").

Just how sweet are the existing police contracts?

Officers earn an additional 4 percent for working a day shift, and an additional 10 percent for the shift starting at 9:30 p.m. They earn an additional 11 percent for working on a special tactical force or an anticrime patrol.

Salaries range from about $47,000 to $81,000 now, not including the shift differentials or additional longevity payments of 3 percent to 11 percent for any officer who has worked five years or more. Officials say they anticipate salaries for the new force will range from $47,000 to $87,000.

In 2009, as the economy was putting a freeze on municipal budgets even in well-off communities, the police here secured a pay increase of 3.75 percent.

And liberal sick time and family-leave policies have created an unusually high absentee rate: every day, nearly 30 percent of the force does not show up. (A typical rate elsewhere is in the single digits.)

Read the whole thing here.

Camden is completely run by Democrats, so there is no b.s. about how this sort of draconian action is some sort of partisan posturing. It's simply the result of brutal fiscal reality that will be coming soon to about 90 percent of American cities.

For more on that, check out this Reason TV vid on Stockton, California, the biggest city to go broke so far:

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  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Wouldn't it be easier to burn it to the ground and start anew? Trying to save Camden now is like trying to save the Roman Empire from Odoacer, it was all over before he even got there.

  • Mainer2||

    +1 for proper use of SNAFU

  • o3||

    FOULED-up is originalist

  • ||

    South Jersey is a total hellhole. Trenton, Camden, AC, it's a total mess. There's a reason the Aqua Teens moved to Seattle.

    Last time I was in AC it was the most depressing thing I've seen in ages. Boardwalk Empire brings back a more golden age.

  • A Serious Man||

    Last time I was in AC it was the most depressing thing I've seen in ages. Boardwalk Empire brings back a more golden age.

    Where have you gone, Nucky Johnson? A Sodom turns its lonely eyes to you.

  • ||

    Indeed. Last time I was in Trenton it was at City Gardens at an Agnostic Front concert. Last time I was in AC Martha Clooney was performing. Yes, I go to Agnostic Front concerts and Martha Clooney performances. SUE ME.

  • sarcasmic||

    Who?

  • ||

    *raises hand* I like Agnostic Front.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    So if Jesuits misbehave, do they get threatened with a "transfer to the Agnostic Front"?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The goal is to can the remaining 273 union cops so they can hire 400 cops

    And the new cops are to be brought in in drips and drabs, to be "trained" by the current cops.

    What is the likelihood of a qualitative improvement in either crime rates or community relations?

  • Invisible Finger||

    Certainly 400 cops at 50K per (the low end of the scale) already consumes all of the current property tax intake.

    I don't see the point of policing sections of town where property taxes aren't paid. Seems even dumber than policing farm land.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Camden, New Jersey has been a hell-hole for as long as I can remember.

    No one is forcing you to live in New Jerksey, whoever you are.

  • Fluffy||

    Camden’s budget was $167 million last year, and of that, the budget for the police was $55 million. Yet the city collected only $21 million in property taxes. It has relied on state aid to make up the difference

    How are they expecting to run a city where the budget is 8 times the primary revenue source?

  • ||

    Atlantic City

  • Fluffy||

    400 cops is 1 cop for every 192 people.

    And they still can't control crime?

  • ||

    My suspicion is the cops are responsible for an awful lot of the crime.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I quoted this the other day:

    Officials say that simply adding officers will not make all the difference, given the deep suspicion many residents harbor toward the police. As the chief and his deputy drove through the Whitman Park neighborhood this month, people sitting on their stoops stood up to shake their fists and shout obscenities at them. When police officers arrested a person suspected of dealing drugs in a house on a narrow street in North Camden last year, residents set upon their cars and freed the prisoner.

    Something tells me "cheaper cops" is not really going to fix what's wrong with Camden.

  • Adam330||

    These are not only cheaper cops, but different cops, which it appears will help.

  • sarcasmic||

    Maybe if the cops would get off their dicks and get busy issuing tickets and confiscating property the city could get its finances in order.

  • albo||

    get busy issuing tickets and confiscating property

    Yeah, like those tickets will be paid and that property will be worth reselling.

    I think at some point we need to think about abandoning some of the worst cities. "Okay, everybody out. If you want to stay, fine, but no services will be provided."

  • Adam330||

    That appears to be what has happened in Camden already.

  • JD the elder||

    I could go for that, actually. Just declare the land a new terra nullius and let people homestead it.

  • Spoonman.||

    So...if they can't find property owners of record, shouldn't they just be confiscating and bulldozing entire blocks? Seems that that would fix a lot of their problems.

  • albo||

    Not sure about NJ, but in PA the appeals process takes a long time. You can not pay your property taxes for years and never have to face the sheriff or the bulldozer.

  • Spoonman.||

    I have noticed from looking at Philadelphia.

  • ChrisO||

    Not to mention that any tenants living in said properties probably can further delay the bulldozers.

    One problem with a place like Camden (besides crime) is that the infrastructure is so old and obsolete that no modern industrial venture would want to locate there. When you take the train from DC to NYC, you see all of the abandoned 19th Century factories and warehouses in places similar to Camden. It's all garbage that needs to be razed before the property in question could ever be used again.

  • ||

    Oh, and then there's the "Environmental Cleanup". Good luck redeveloping that.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Bulldozing costs money. And that doesn't count the attorney fees.

  • Jerry on the road||

    BLS figures for the Camden metropolitan area: average pay cop $72k, average pay security guard $28k.

  • TigTang||

    So who comes up with all that crazy stuff over there?

    www.PrivateData.tk

  • Enough About Palin||

    A former police officer whose canine partner died after being left in a patrol vehicle for three days should be charged with a felony, the Georgia Humane Society said Friday.
    The group plans to dig up the remains of the 10-year-old Dutch Shepherd so an investigation can begin, the group’s president told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
    “If you kill or harm a police dog or horse, it’s a felony,” Joan Weatherford Sammond, president of the Georgia Humane Society said. “We need to retrieve the remains to determine a cause of death and rule out natural causes, even though the evidence is really valid.”
    The dog, Sasha, was found dead Sept. 3 inside the Chevrolet Tahoe belonging to her handler, Lt. T.J. Frye of the Warwick Police Department in South Georgia, according to a Warwick police report. Frye returned home from a three-day trip to find the animal inside the vehicle. He later buried Sasha in his own yard.
    Inside the vehicle were horrific signs that the dog tried to escape, including ripped seat belts, bite marks in the leather seats, scratches on the windows, and broken rear-view mirror, the police report said.
    The chief of the police department didn’t file a report on the dog’s death until Sept. 14, following questions from local media outlets, according to the man who gave the narcotics dog to the city, free of charge.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/g.....int/nSPHn/

  • R C Dean||

    Seems only fair. If its a felony for a "civilian" to kill a cop dog, how is it not a felony for a cop to kill a cop dog?

  • Enough About Palin||

    “Lt. Frye stated that Sasha must have let herself inside the vehicle over the weekend while he was out of town,” the Warwick police report states.

    Cops...

  • Adam330||

    I'm sure a video re-enactment will be forthcoming soon.

  • ||

    NYT again trying to be Time Magazine:

    Two gruesome murders of children last month — a toddler decapitated, a 6-year-old stabbed in his sleep

    Except, of course, both those tragedies occurred by people known to the victims (in one case, a suicidal mother). So those were neither preventable by the police nor indicative of high crime by anonymous assailants.

    But they make good copy.

  • Camden Garden||

    CAMDEN, NJ IS NOT ALL-BAD...The media just won't cover anything positive. Here is just a taste of some of the amazing things GROWING in Camden, NJ...http://goo.gl/RpCaH.

    ~ The Camden Children’s Garden, operated by the Camden City Garden Club has been thriving and helping to improve the city for over 28 years by fighting hunger and obesity through our Community Gardening and Nutrition Education Programming.
    ~ First Lady Obama’s Book “American Grown”, featured the CCGC’s community gardens and the Camden Children’s Garden as one of the nation’s ten garden programs highlighted in the book.
    ~ The CCGC was recently awarded a 3-year grant from the USDA to create an entrepreneurial gardening program.
    ~ This year, the US Department of Education granted 3-year funding to expand Camden’s already-thriving school/community gardens, which then awarded CCGC a contract.
    ~ The CCGC will also be bringing nutrition “to the streets”, partnering with the Camden City and NJ State government to pilot a mobile market program, and so much more to help raise up the people of the City of Camden, NJ.
    ~ In addition, the Camden City Garden Club was named by the University of Pennsylvania as “perhaps the nation’s fastest growing community gardening program” in 2009.
    ~ We currently support 125 community/learning gardens and 80 family gardens.
    ~ Here is a link to e-newsletter which highlights and links to recent accomplishments of the CCGC/CCG! http://goo.gl/RpCaH

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