Camden is again the nation's second most dangerous city, according to the 2011 CQ Press City Crime Rankings made public Wednesday, and brazen criminals are making a run at the top ranking for next year.
Camden currently has 48 homicides, 11 more than this time last year. Almost every category of crime is up in the city, besides rape, including a 45 percent increase in aggravated assaults with a firearm.
Flint, Mich., was named the nation's most dangerous city this year while Camden, Detroit, St. Louis, and Oakland rounded out the top five. Newark, N.J. slipped from 23rd on the list in 2010 to ninth this year. Philadelphia slipped three spots, 30th to 27th.
Critics of the rankings, which are based on the previous year's murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and motor-vehicle thefts in cities with over 75,000 residents, have long argued that the rankings paint skewed pictures with old data. When the rankings came out last year and Camden was second, Mayor Dana Redd pointed out that the city was in the midst of historic crime reductions. Just a few months later, however, approximately 168 of Camden's 370 officers were laid off and crime has steadily risen ever since.
During the layoffs, both Redd and police officials said public safety would not suffer under a reduced force but Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk, the chief law enforcement official in the county, says the link between layoffs and rising crime is now undeniable.
"I was willing to go along with not pushing the panic button at first. We've reached the point where I can no longer remain silent," he said in an interview Tuesday. "Unfortunately, I have no solutions."
Robert Corrales, a spokesman for Redd and the police department, said the mayor is "obviously concerned" about the current levels of violence in the city. He said the layoffs were a result of the economy and non-concessions by police unions, but noted that 60 percent of the laid-off officers have been brought back. Redd, according to published reports, has asked the Attorney General's office for help. City council members are asking to declare a state of emergency and calling for the National Guard, and others have suggested bringing in more New Jersey State Police troopers.
"That's not going to happen," Faulk said of additional state troopers.