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State to the rescue in Camden

Gov. Christie had little choice but to dispatch New Jersey State Police to help curb deadly violence in Camden.

Crime has jumped recently in the city of 79,000, with 48 homicides this year.

The reinforcements arrived Monday night to help patrol the 9-square-mile city, which was recently again named the second-most dangerous in the nation.

They will help fill a void left after Mayor Dana L. Redd laid off nearly half of the police department in a budget-cutting move in January. She later rehired some officers, but not all.

Crimes are up across the board, but the recent killing of a popular bodega owner sparked a public outcry for state help.

Redd has been counting on a proposal to dismantle the Camden Police Department and create a new regional police force to put more officers in Camden and keep residents safer. The plan has gotten a tepid response from suburban towns and city police unions are opposing it.

In the meantime, public safety in Camden wanes and fears escalate. The city needs an immediate answer for old problems.

The response from Christie was a welcome change from the indifference that he has largely shown the city. No longer under state control, Camden has been left to stand on its own on wobbly feet. Its long festering problems — high unemployment, a lack of affordable housing, poverty, failing public schools, and social problems and addictions — are at the root of the violence and spike in crime.

Nevertheless, faced with a $26 million deficit, Redd made the tough decision to lay off more than 200 police and firefighters. And residents believe criminals have become more brazen without a strong police presence. Camden has had 11 more homicides this year than at this time last year.

The situation has become so perilous that staff and volunteers with Holy Name of Camden Ministries wear jackets with their church name when they are out on the streets, hoping that criminals will let them safely pass.

A stepped-up state police presence is a welcome but temporary fix. But elected officials must focus on the long-term measures Camden needs to keep its residents safe.