Camden city and county officials met Monday to discuss assisting Camden police - possibly with increased involvement by the county Sheriff's Office and Park Police - when the city lays off up to half of its law enforcement officers Jan. 18.
The New Jersey State Police, which maintains a presence in the city, will monitor the situation in Camden and send in more troopers if needed, said Paul Loriquet, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office.
"The state police has done that in the past and they would do that again," Loriquet said. "The safety of the citizens of Camden will not be compromised as we go through this very difficult budget crisis."
The Camden County freeholders organized the meeting Monday to discuss how county, state, and federal agencies could aid in policing Camden.
Faced with a $26.5 million budget deficit, Camden City Council voted this month to let go up to 383 unionized city employees, affecting virtually every government department.
Negotiations between the city and union officials have resumed and could reduce, but are unlikely to eliminate, Fire and Police Department job losses.
Among possibilities being considered are deploying officers from the Camden County Sheriff's Office and the Park Police to supplement city patrols. Members of those agencies are armed, were trained at the same academies, and are authorized to perform many of the same duties as municipal police, according to the county.
With 180 of its 380 police on the verge of being laid off, there is concern that a jump in crime in Camden would have repercussions elsewhere.
"Any spike in crime in Camden City can affect other communities in Camden County," Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) said in a statement.
The meeting at Camden Community College in Camden was attended by Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd, county and state politicians, and officials from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Camden County Prosecutor's Office; Rutgers University police; Port Authority police; and other city and county law enforcement agencies.
Absent were representatives of the state police, FBI, and federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which maintain significant forces in the city. They were attending a meeting in West Trenton called by the state Attorney General's Office to discuss better communication between law enforcement agencies.
The Camden County freeholders had been unaware of that meeting, scheduled over a month ago, when they organized their event, county spokeswoman Joyce Gabriel said.
The freeholders set another meeting to discuss contingency plans on Monday.