CAMDEN CITY, NJ--Creativity is key in imagining a better Camden. It’s a holistic approach, and an integral part of building on the best the city offers in the pursuit of a safer Camden. Policing in a city historically plagued with crime and drug activity poses many challenges. After years of a vicious cycle of crime and incarceration in cities across America, many in our communities have viewed the police as an occupying force. In the past few years, the Camden County Police Department (CCPD) sought to change that perception. They introduced a new approach to change the way citizens experienced their local police.
Chief Scott Thompson is a Camden native and knows its streets well. In 2014, he wanted his officers to get to know the city they patrolled in the same way he had- by walking the streets and meeting their neighbors. Thompson instructed his officers to get out of their cars and walk the beat. It’s a person-to-person common sense strategy gets results. Since then, building confidence and forging bonds between CCPD and the people it serves increasingly makes Camden a safer community.
This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication and hard work to build relationships. Getting to know the officer on the beat is one step toward creating neighborhood connections. The department puts into practice a comprehensive community outreach action plan that reaches across demographics, offering both family fun and alternatives for youth.
The department hosts a series of Movies with Metro Saturdays, which are free for the public to attend. The series features family-friendly movies, popcorn machines, snacks and drinks. Summer months also brings Pop-Up Block Parties held in neighborhoods throughout the city. The CCPD brings the grills, and basketball hoops and officers serve up burgers, dogs, and run ball with the neighbors.
Making change through community policing is more than just fun. The department is involved in education too! More than 30 officers visit schools throughout the city as part of Bookmates- a highly successful program that brings officers and children together through books. Officers visit schools to spend time with kindergarteners for one-on-one reading time.
Residents and officers advocate for peace in the streets together as well. This past spring, the CCPD joined forces with the Camden County Board of Freeholders, city officials, community organizations and residents in the March Against Gun Violence. Chief Thompson stepped up as one of the day’s featured speakers. Also, the department is continuing their ongoing programs aimed at reaching at-risk youth through Gang Resistance and Education Training (GREAT) and Project Guardian, which gathers several times a year in churches and community centers to steer young people away from crime and violence.
The CCPD is held up as a national example as evidence that community-based policing really does work, and the changing landscape of Camden is proving it. What cannot be easily quantified, but just as important- is the growing trust established between the City of Camden’s law enforcement and the people in they serve in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Don’t miss the CCPD’s next community event, Masquerade with the Metro. Wear your costume to enter to win prizes and come out and enjoy refreshments, treats, giveaways and more! The event will be held in Von Nieda Park on October 27th, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Click here to learn more about the Camden County Police Department Metro Division. http://camdencountypd.org/