By Steve Tawa
CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey governor Chris Christie today visited the city of Camden as it graduated a new academy of police officers to serve in the metro division of the Camden County Police Department, now in its second year of operation.
The governor noted it’s been 13 months since the city and county took a bold step to, in his words, “repair and expand a broken system of law enforcement in a city that deserves better.”
“We’ve created a countywide force that is putting more police officers on the streets of Camden and putting more resources at their disposal,” Christie (at lectern in photo) said.
Police chief Scott Thomson noted that when the previous, city-run police department was dissolved, there were 220 officers. Now, he points out, there are 320. And with the new academy graduating, there will be 387.
“It puts me in a position to be able to put boots on the ground, in a meaningful way, in virtually every neighborhood we have in the city,” he said.
Thomson says he has taken a page from Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey’s playbook on community policing, getting officers to interact with residents.
“I’m stealing plays out of his playbook every day,” Thomson acknowledged.
The Republican governor and local Democratic elected leaders all say major crimes — murders, shootings, assaults, and robberies — are down from last year.
Thomson, the police chief, says homicides are down 20 percent from last year, murders are down 30 percent from 2012, and shootings are down 40 percent over the last two years.