Camden has been called one of America’s most troubled cities but with recent changes come hope that the situation can be turned around. The city has a new police force and the state has decided to take over the school system. Camden City Council President Frank Moran told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes the city is moving in the right direction.
Moran supports the council’s decision about the police force. “I am 100 percent positive that this move that was taken by my governing body as of last week is a move in the right direction to turn our city around and improve the quality of life for all our residents and all of those that visit the city of Camden, as well as our children within the education system,” he said. “It’s been far too long that our city has been suffering, and our children have, with a lack of police protection and below quality education system. So it’s truly a new day and I’m 100 percent in support of this move.”
Some former Camden police officers have protested the new Metro Division patrolling the city. Moran said the decision was two years in the making. “The mayor and city council had to make a difficult decision back in January of 2011 due to financial constraints to have to lay off just about half of the police and fire department,” he explained. “Over the year of 2011 and into 2012, with grants coming into the city, we were able to bring most of the officers back, if not all, but the reality is our tax base does not give us the necessary funding to provide the adequate policing in the city of Camden.”
Moran is confident that there will be enough officers patrolling Camden. He said the goal is to have about 401 armed officers before the end of the summer with about 130 civilian police aids to do police reports, small fender benders and small claims.
“But the real strong push is going to be against the gangs that have been controlling our streets, the violent crime that has been controlling our streets for far too long,” Moran said. “And the armed officers will be solely focused on combating those major crimes.”
The takeover of public schools has drawn criticism in cities like Paterson, Jersey City and Newark. But Moran said he’s happy the state is coming in to control Camden’s schools.
“Out of the 26 schools in the city I believe that 23 are failing,” Moran said. “The state has had some sort of involvement over the years but a true partnership working with the municipal government as well as the Board of Education and the administrators to really say we have to look at alternatives.”
According to Moran, officials will be looking at the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the Renaissance School, the Urban Hope Act and charter schools.
“We have very successful charter schools in the city and we have some public schools that are successful,” Moran said. “For far too long we’ve been failing our children and in order to change our city for the good, we have to address the crime with the public safety and we have to address the education system so that we can attract and build our tax base.”