At the end of President Obama’s speech in Camden, the speakers blared Bruce Springsteen’s optimistic Land of Hope and Dreams, which ends with the word “faith.” Federal and state funding and the actions of concerned citizens have made Camden a better place. However, Obama said, “Nobody is suggesting the work is done. This is still a work in progress. Crime, poverty and hopelessness have no single solution.”
The economy remains poor. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ten years ago Camden employment was 608,611 and early in 2015 was 596,071. Unemployment was 28,875 (4.5%) and today is 44,235 (6.9%). Not so good.
There are still high amounts of crime. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, in 2005 there were 33 murders, 47 rapes, 773 robberies, and 898 assaults. In 2012 (the last year reported so far) there were 67 murders, 74 rapes, 755 robberies and 1097 assaults. No improvement. More recent data supplied by the Camden Metro Police suggests better numbers but are based on only an eight month period for each year, making the numbers look smaller, and may involve reclassification of crime categories. One suggestion is to increase the African-American presence on the command staff of the Camden Metro force.
Obama said, “We know these problems are solvable.” The voices in yesterday’s Blue Jersey, James Harris, Keith Eric Benson, and Marie Corfield suggest a broad array of concerns and solutions. The Federal government has designated Camden a Promise Zone which offers assistance but little funding, has a “best practices” program, My Brother’s Keeper, for young men of color in which Camden participates, and just published a crime task force report which has useful recommendations. However, most of the effort going forward will rely on state assistance and the creativity of local government and civic-minded residents working together to solve individual problems.