The aquarium is nice.
January 19, 2011 9:48 PM   Subscribe

 
I'm not afraid, because if the terrorists fly over Camden they'll think they have done it already.

So the bombs missed Slough by about 26 miles then, huh.
posted by kenko at 10:02 PM on January 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Still, the market is good if you want platform boots or glowsticks.
posted by Artw at 10:05 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


That is a deeply depressing story. I had never heard of Camden. Maybe some of the european photography students can head over there and finally leave Detroit alone.
posted by sarastro at 10:07 PM on January 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


wow
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:08 PM on January 19, 2011


@Sarastro: Haha, I was actually looking for a good Detroit or Chernobyl Exclusion Zone style photoblog to link with this but I couldn't find one.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:09 PM on January 19, 2011


Camden is only the tip of the iceberg, says Walker. He recommends that police chiefs across the country come up with a strategy for dealing with drastic cuts: What to do in case of a 10 percent reduction, a 20 percent reduction, and so on. But in the end, it's not up to the police departments. It's up to the politicians who fund them—or, perhaps, don't. "We simply have to raise taxes, period," says Walker. "I don't know any other way out."
posted by IvoShandor at 10:10 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suspect this is one of those times where they cut the most essential and visible services first, so that it makes a bigger impact on its citizens -- this article is an added bonus. If they were to cut other sectors in the city (for instance, long-term infrastructure), it would be difficult to rally citizens into paying more taxes or getting state and federal aid. Cut the police and firefighter forces, though, and you have citizens calling their local reps.
posted by spiderskull at 10:12 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haha, I was actually looking for a good Detroit

so you find that amusing.
posted by clavdivs at 10:15 PM on January 19, 2011


ya, our rep had to finally call the President before the city burned down.
posted by clavdivs at 10:18 PM on January 19, 2011


I like black humor. Depressing part is that there are not many photoblogs because Camden is scarier than a nuclear wasteland. The Detroit photoblogs are mostly of cool looking abandoned buildings, there isn't as much of that awesome architecture in Camden.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:18 PM on January 19, 2011


fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK. GODDAMNIT. I'm always forgetting what is wrong with my country, because I don't want to remember, but I keep finding shit that reminds me, because it's impossible not to if you're paying the slightest bit of attention.

FUCK
posted by dubitable at 10:21 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


@Spiderskull: There isn't much of a tax base in the first place and the governor is Chris Christie. This is, most likely, actually happening. If this was Philly there would be public outcry and political action and things would be handled, this isn't Philly.

Meant to link this in the post but forgot, the soundtrack for the thread.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:26 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is it that everyone hates police and wants to be left alone but protests loss of police force? It seems like people want thousands of officers that can only smile and say g'day.

Either way you look at it "Guardian Angels" scare the shit out of me. Police are trained to deal with bad situations, they make mistakes all the time. Untrained Police groups will make those same mistakes, only more often and without legal consequences.
posted by Felex at 10:28 PM on January 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Just to make matters worse, the aquarium really isn't that nice.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:33 PM on January 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Well, there's also a battleship and minor league baseball.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:35 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was thinking "what the fuck is this guy talking aboot?" since I read Camden as "Canada" up until the line, "one of the most dangerous places in the United States."
It's clearly time for bed.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:38 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems like people want thousands of officers that can only smile and say g'day.

I think this is precisely what (many) people want. They want a lot of officers, standing around, walking their beat, knowing everyone by name, deterring crime.

But nobody is willing to pay what it takes to have Officer Smiley standing around, keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood 24/7/365, so instead you get reactive police forces that try to deter crime through selective enforcement/punishment, and stuff like CCTV setups that don't really work at all.

Of course, it also seems as though many people want some sort of basically-unregulated Red Light District where they can go, away from the watchful eyes of Officer Smiley, to get their contraband. But they don't see that as crime, naturally.

Lots of conflicting desires in there. The desire to have constant law enforcement keeping anyone from stepping out of line, versus not wanting laws that prevent me from doing the unpopular things I like to do. The desire to have high quality services, versus wanting to keep as much of my paycheck to myself. Balancing these things is, to say the least, non-trivial. I don't even have a lot of pat answers on how to do it in every circumstance, except that it's clear Camden is doing or has done something wrong.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:52 PM on January 19, 2011 [39 favorites]


Camden is a poor urban area with 30-40% real unemployment in the richest state in the union, they are that Red Light district where the law isn't really watching.

Look at this map. Look at the distance between Camden and Cherry Hill.

In 2006, Cherry Hill was named among the 'Best Places to Live' in the United States by Money Magazine[46] and was ranked eighth safest place to live in the same survey.[47]

posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:58 PM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


The rumor on the street, Sloan El informs us, is that the robber was high on a narcotic called wet. The drug of choice of Camden's criminal class, wet is made by soaking marijuana in embalming fluid, which is a mixture of formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol and other solvents. Phencyclidine, or PCP, known on the street as angel dust, is often added to the mix. Wet is smoked dry but the leaves, which glisten, give the drug its liquid name. Wet numbs its users and endows them with what seems to them like superhuman strength. Their body temperatures rise, their blood pressure drops and they frequently hallucinate. The high can last up to six hours. Two Camden police officers who do not want to be named tell us they fear confronting street thugs on wet. "You shoot them and they just keep coming," one says warily.

I call BS on this. Throws the credibility of the entire article into doubt. "Two Camden police officers who do not want to be named", yeah right. These lines are cribbed from articles about PCP from the 70's, which were cribbed from articles about cocaine from the 20's which described "cocaine-crazed negroes" as having superhuman strength and being unstoppable by small arms. No one believes cocaine gives superhuman strength now, because many, many Americans have tried cocaine and the idea is laughable. But few have tried PCP, so writing like this passes right by editors.
posted by telstar at 11:04 PM on January 19, 2011 [33 favorites]




The rumor on the street, Sloan El informs us, is that the robber was high on a narcotic called wet.

I call BS too. All the serious criminals are on jenkem these days.
posted by mullingitover at 11:08 PM on January 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


PCP/Wet is very well known among drug users in the Philadelphia region. (Ever listened to "Water" by The Roots, especially the 10 minutes of mind raping noise at the end on the album version?) It is not embalming fluid but that myth is so prevalent I've been told it by cops and drug counselors.

Cops are the type of people you would most expect to be spouting inaccurate hysteria about drugs, it's a sign of authenticity for the story as far as I can tell.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:13 PM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: Cops are the type of people you would most expect to be spouting inaccurate hysteria about drugs, it's a sign of authenticity for the story as far as I can tell.

Seriously. For every cop who actually has an understanding of how things work and happen in real life drug/street/crime/gang culture, you have the entire rest of the force to balance him out.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:34 PM on January 19, 2011


Wow. For context, take a stroll down a typical Camden street.
posted by prinado at 11:35 PM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thanks prinado - that does make it real, although I bet it would be even realer if the google streetview car would go through camden at night.

Kind of funny to see the firemen hanging out on the porch, but the whole situation is really sad.
posted by ianhattwick at 11:41 PM on January 19, 2011



Wow. For context, take a stroll down a typical Camden street.


It's not all bad, for instance in this photo one gentleman appears to be giving a stranger in a car driving directions.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:50 PM on January 19, 2011 [32 favorites]


Bah, Camden ain't got nothin' on my hometown. In other cities, crackheads break into abandoned buildings to steal the pipes. In St. Louis, they steal the walls.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:55 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lots of conflicting desires in there. The desire to have constant law enforcement keeping anyone from stepping out of line, versus not wanting laws that prevent me from doing the unpopular things I like to do.

posted by Kadin2048


I don't really see that as conflicting desires. The crimes that individuals are actually scared of are violence and theft.
posted by aychedee at 11:56 PM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


So basically it's this generation's Sherm Stick?

Also- sad and telling about priorities that it's a bigger concern/outrage factor in the article about cutting down half the police force, or ZOMG DRUGS and not the 30-40% unemployment?
posted by yeloson at 11:57 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Until I got lost there long ago, when I missed the 1 mile prior to exit barriered exit lane, I thought Camden was a sleepy harbor town. I was thinking while driving through that it didn't look very quaint. What a difference five states make eh?
posted by AndrewKemendo at 12:14 AM on January 20, 2011


Bah, Camden ain't got nothin' on my hometown. In other cities, crackheads break into abandoned buildings to steal the pipes. In St. Louis, they steal the walls.
Between Camden, St. Louis, and Detroit, it looks like real-life urban decay is finally catching up to cyberpunk novels. Welcome to our Gibsonian future, everybody.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:00 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


But where does Earl Hickey fit into all of this?
posted by bwg at 1:10 AM on January 20, 2011


Camden needs a governor other than Christie, desperately.
posted by angrycat at 1:16 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. For context, take a stroll down a typical Camden street.

Playground with razor wire. Damn.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:49 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, I have only just started the article but something seems a little strange to me. So this is a town with multiple-generations of people totally removed from the formal economy, massive unemployment, and a frighteningly low median income. And to make the picture look extra, extra bleak, the author notes that this town of 70 odd thousand people has

- a large wastewater treatment plant
- active metal scrapyards
- a garbage burning power plant
- a prison
- a very large cement plant

That all points to a pretty healthy economy to me. Jobs, jobs, and jobs, right? The question to me is, how can such a small town have so much basic industry and yet be so poor? And why does the stench of the sewage plant cover the town? Proper, modern wastewater treatment practice should be able to limit offensive odors to within the plant premises. I worked at a large treatment plant in Toronto for a while, and it had a small green buffer zone, and only on rare occasions could you smell anything from the street.

This is not a city without hope. This is an extremely poorly managed city. If the people who run the city actually wanted to include this underclass in the economy they could - but slashing library budgets and police budgets, and not caring that the wastewater treatment plant is fouling up nearby neighbourhoods suggests contempt for the local population.
posted by molecicco at 2:48 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Prison, the industry of economic development. Staffed by locals, filled with locals.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 3:04 AM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I ask him why the rage is invariably self-destructive. "They can't get at it," he said. "You have an enemy, and that enemy is greed and prejudice and injustice and all that type of thing, but you can't get at it. There's no head, there's no clarity, so you take it out on your neighbor. It's just horrendous what people do."

I think that this, basically, is the root of much of the anger in USA these days....we've (well, not me, especially bc I'm a crazy pessimist, but I've been told) been sold all these dreams, all this BS about "you can make it if" and it's finally sinking in that no son, sorry, you can work your ass off and still be poor. You can do 40 hours of overtime and still not cover the payments on the cancer treatment that killed your wife 2 years ago.

In fact, "no, son" period. Cutting back healthcare while the CEO gets another raise that elevates him to a further percentage point away from the average worker. No notion of a living wage. I really hate to be someone who harps on something so cliche, but we are really destroying ourselves as a nation. And it's getting worse.
posted by nevercalm at 3:06 AM on January 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


Folks, get used to it. The services provided by government in the US are about to disappear...

And, I too am amused that, if a story about a cop doing his/her job is posted, it's all, like "fuck the po-po", but god forbid we actually get rid of them.

Can't have your cake and eat it too, kids.
posted by HuronBob at 3:07 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge: "I was actually looking for a good Detroit or Chernobyl Exclusion Zone style photoblog to link with this but I couldn't find one."

A little browsing of Google Streetview in Camden is plenty depressing, thank you.
posted by brokkr at 3:14 AM on January 20, 2011


People who say "fuck the police" don't mean that they don't want any law enforcement at all. They mean that they want law enforcement to obey it's own laws, to be staffed by people who see it as a service job (not a chance to be a petty dictator or take our their racist frustrations on bystanders), and for any police officers who fuck up to be removed from service.
posted by harriet vane at 3:35 AM on January 20, 2011 [75 favorites]


"Campbell Soup (CPB) grew its fiscal fourth-quarter profits by a stronger-than-expected 64%, but the soup maker's revenue missed estimates amid deteriorating U.S. soup sales.

The Camden, N.J.-based company said it earned $113 million, or 33 cents a share, in the quarter ended Aug. 1, compared with a profit of $69 million, or 20 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Analysts had been forecasting EPS of 30 cents."


How do you like that "trickle down" Camden?
posted by Xurando at 3:46 AM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I too am amused that, if a story about a cop doing his/her job is posted, it's all, like "fuck the po-po", but god forbid we actually get rid of them.

Can't have your cake and eat it too, kids.


Speaking out against police brutality, the over-reach of the security apparatus, unjust laws, unjust enforcement of laws against specific segments of the population, and bad police policy is not the same thing as screaming for all police to be taken off the streets. Since when has there been a post about a police doing his/her job (honorably, within the law and unconstrained by shitty policy) that mefites have collectively exclaimed "fuck the police"?
posted by IvoShandor at 3:48 AM on January 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


Proper, modern wastewater treatment practice should be able to limit offensive odors to within the plant premises. I worked at a large treatment plant in Toronto...

Wastewater treatment plants, at least in the US, are often not regulated by the municipalities where they are located; they are regulated by the state. That brings us back to Governor Christie.

Ditto garbage-burning power plants. Regulated by the federal government, and maybe the state. If those agencies are not on the case, pollution results. Also, hundreds of big trucks full of burnable waste entering your city every day, with some small portion of each load escaping into the streets, adds up to a major litter problem.

I have lived in a community with both of those facilities, and they were both major detriments to said community. Since they are mostly automated, they do not employ many people.

A prison is not a "basic industry;" nor are either of the above-mentioned enterprises.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:49 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Between Camden, St. Louis, and Detroit, it looks like real-life urban decay is finally catching up to cyberpunk novels. Welcome to our Gibsonian future, everybody.

Heh. I grew up in Philadelphia. In the 1970's Philly was the poster child for urban blight - it looked much like Camden looks today.

Philadelphia isn't like that anymore and in fact it is hugely better place to live today than it was 30 years ago. I stayed at the Hyatt at Penns Landing before Christmas and thought, "Man when I was a kid you were taking your life into your hands walking along the Delaware Ave. waterfront. Look at those people jogging and no one's even chasing them."

Much the same can be said for NYC. It is much better today than in the 1970s.

Urban decay is a local, temporal thing, but if you want to think of it as inevitable decline to chaos that's fun too.
posted by three blind mice at 3:57 AM on January 20, 2011 [21 favorites]


It's not all bad, for instance in this photo one gentleman appears to be giving a stranger in a car driving directions.

That's nice to see. There's some streets in my city where it looks there are lots of women that will give you directions. It appears some of them will even get in your car to guide you to your destination!
posted by marxchivist at 4:08 AM on January 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


At least Trenton has a cool slogan.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:09 AM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Whether the plant is regulated by the state or federally, the municipal government should have a working relationship with the plant operators, and be in communication with regulating agencies. That is what I mean poorly managed.

And what I meant by "basic industries", is that prison work, as terrible as it is, is at least steady regular, work. As is working in a wastewater treatment plant, or a cement plant. These represent steady revenue streams that are coming into the community, and are at least a starting point. Kirth, I'm not sure what your definition of "Basic industry" is, but surely a cement plant counts?
posted by molecicco at 4:10 AM on January 20, 2011


three blind mice has a point. Philly was regarded that way and growing up it certainly felt like a city on the edge of the abyss. There are neighborhoods in Philly that have not turned around and found ways to be communities you'd want to live in - Kensington comes to mind. But with the renewal taking place around it, there is hope, where before, there was none.

Still, I worry. You could characterize most in America, prior to the last few years, as feeling that the future held something better than the past. Now, we are settling into a new normal of diminished expectations and cut backs. It maybe necessary, it may not, counting upon who you decide to believe. But the response to that is pretty clear - we are going to have to learn how to support our communities with less. To do that we will need to knock on our neighbors doors and invite them over for coffee. We are going to have to look past political/religious differences and get to work together.

I actually hold out hope that the Gov 2.0 tech-driven movement starts to take. We need participatory democracy now.
posted by kmartino at 4:24 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


HuronBob, I think you're missing the distinction between police doling out unthinking, paramilitary brutality and police doing their job.

Also, cake is for eating!
posted by littleredspiders at 4:27 AM on January 20, 2011


I don't remember being pointedly told this, but somehow everyone in in my NJ high school had this collective knowledge that if you got into Rutgers, you shouldn't go to the Camden campus.
posted by spec80 at 4:49 AM on January 20, 2011


There is another possibility too - when the public safety issues of Camden start to impact neighboring communities - maybe - just maybe - there will be the political will to raise taxes.

I'd wish there were political leadership that could see the idea before that happened. I don't understand how we've gotten to a place where the idea of shared responsibility is likened to evil.
posted by kmartino at 4:49 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The question to me is, how can such a small town have so much basic industry and yet be so poor?

my guess is that the people who have jobs at those basic industry places live somewhere else and contribute little to the tax base
posted by pyramid termite at 4:54 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live in a town half the size of Camden and if that's all we had we'd be in huge trouble
posted by Space Coyote at 5:13 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The question to me is, how can such a small town have so much basic industry and yet be so poor?

my guess is that the people who have jobs at those basic industry places live somewhere else and contribute little to the tax base


I'll second that. The sense that industry in a city entails prosperity for the city itself grows largely out of a history before cars and automation. My best friend lives in Braddock, PA - home to the last working steel mill in the Pittsburgh area and subject of a bullshit feel-good campaign from Levi's (who now get shoddy jeans made in Cambodia). The plant runs two to three shifts a day, fifty-one weeks a year. But most of the jobs got automated and those that remain are held by people with cars who moved yet further out and left Braddock without a tax base, hell, with barely any population.
posted by el_lupino at 5:22 AM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down?
posted by empath at 5:27 AM on January 20, 2011


That all points to a pretty healthy economy to me. Jobs, jobs, and jobs, right?

If you mean three jobs, then you're in the ball park. If you mean robust employment opportunities for a community of 70k, try again. None of the sectors you mention have any real density of jobs.

I'm not saying anything about the nature of the work mind you, though they're likely not very high-wage. I'm saying that per acre those types of uses have extremely low job requirements per output.

Why is this important? First, it makes it so a few stakeholders can derive a lot of profit from a few workers while using a lot of land. These situations, especially over time, prevent management (and the City officials they interact with) from becoming responsible to a significant portion of the community. Second, these types of uses draw shit for local tax rolls, ensuring the City (like most) is in constant fiscal crises...re: no $ for cops.

This is all beside the point that the community is not engaged in the formal economy as mentioned above. It reminds me a lot of when I lived in Hartford (although Bridgeport, CT is probably a better comparison). CT, like NJ has focused most of its investment and civic organization around commuting to NY and enriching the suburbs. These states have long abandoned their own metro areas as real economies. This leaves the old urban cores as reservoires where racially segregated economically disenfranchised people are forced to try to create communities.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:30 AM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


empath: "When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down"

It's a little tough to get elected with that as a campaign promise.
posted by octothorpe at 5:37 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]



Wow. For context, take a stroll down a typical Camden street.


In fairness, if you go up to the intersection and around the corner, it looks (as far as you can tell from photos in google) like a quite ordinary cityscape. The genuinely blighted sections don't encompass the entire city, no matter how overwrought the writing in that Nation article is.
posted by Forktine at 5:42 AM on January 20, 2011


empath: "When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down?"

And admit that there exists somewhere, anywhere in the US where our system has completely failed, and the best we can do is tear it down? Would that that kind of rational thinking existed in our authority figures.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:42 AM on January 20, 2011


When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down?

Because nearly every NIMBY community in the country would rather let the people fester in a horrific environment than to take the chance that the "wetted up" thugs and the prostitutes so highly infectious you have to wipe down the places they sat so you won't catch anything will be moved into their town. And that's not to mention all the highly unskilled, uneducated and poor folks you'd have to do something with as well. Most of whom are black! And there's the cost of moving them, razing the city, cleaning up the inevitable ecological catastrophes and on and on.

We live in an America that's pragmatic when it comes to looking out for number one, and most of America sees Camden and everyone in it as number two. Pun intended. Shame on all of us.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:53 AM on January 20, 2011 [12 favorites]




Thank goodness the new Republican House of Representative engaged the problem of long-term joblessness with its first significant vote.
posted by Mister_A at 5:59 AM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


House of Representatives, I mean. Sometimes I make mistakes when I type by bashing my fists on the keys in a blind rage.
posted by Mister_A at 6:03 AM on January 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


In 2006, Cherry Hill was named among the 'Best Places to Live' in the United States

Cherry Hill ain't Camden, but I still wouldn't want to live there.

(And, actually, as far as the streetscape goes, the Google Street View links in this thread fail to horrify me, apart from the obviously high vacancy rates. A bunch of the NYC and Baltimore suburbs have similarly abandoned neighborhoods.

Coincidentally, I stumbled into one of Northern NJ's few impoverished (and predominately black) suburbs for the first time last year. Holy Barbed Wire, Batman. *Everything* had a 12-foot tall barbed wire fence around it, including the gas stations. It was depressing, and shocking considering that I got there by driving through Maplewood (which is extremely affluent).

The only silver lining in any of this is Cory Booker, who seems to be the first Jersey politician in decades to actually want to make things better for Newark (and has been having some success in doing so).

New Jersey seriously needs to start worrying about turning into one gigantic slum, and suffering from severe depopulation. It's an absurdly expensive place to live, has fewer and fewer jobs, and isn't particularly desirable to anybody under the age of 35. I spent the first 18 years of my life there, and do not expect to ever return -- it is unbelievably painful to say this about my home. The 20-something population is leaving (or has already left) in droves, the income gap is widening at an alarming rate, and Christie has gutted the school systems, universities, and safety net programs. Although he's never said so quite so directly, it is very clearly apparent that he would permanently shutter the public school systems if he had the authority to do so (and has received consistent praise for these views). Welcome to the dystopian future.

Sarah Palin doesn't scare me, because she'll never withstand the scrutiny of a public election ever again. Chris Christie terrifies me, because he holds office, has wildly high approval ratings, and (among other things) frequently uses physical intimidation when confronting his opponents. Thankfully, he does not intend to run for national office.

I've always found it difficult to support the States Rights camp. I would seriously prefer George W. Bush to any single New Jersey governor who has served during my lifetime. They have almost universally been apathetic, irresponsible, and haven't even managed to accomplish their own goals, even when those goals were as abhorrent as Christie's, where he somehow managed to gut social services without really cutting spending or taxes in any appreciable way. As much as I think he was a bad leader, and extremely misguided, I think that George Bush wanted what was best for his country -- I've not been convinced that any New Jersey governor has felt the same way about their state.

Split it up, and give it to New York, Pennsylvania, and a little bit to Delaware (You'd find that the new borders would be extremely easy to find - the state is more or less culturally divided as such). It's time to put the place out of its misery.
posted by schmod at 6:05 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I wish reporters would stop breathlessly reporting cop claims that popular street drugs turn users into supermen who must have the living shit beaten out of them, or that all hookers come with retractable needles. Note how much of the Horror of Those People parts in the Nation article boil down to cop folklore. Yeah, sometimes people who the police deal with are tough, weird and dangerous! But this body of knowledge is brought to you buy the same people that also tell police studies students to smash people in the face with an open palm because it doesn't look like you're hitting a smaller person in the face on TV, and who have helped Taser International develop the (not recognized by real medical science) medical condition of "excited delirium," which is when people you tase drop dead, but it's totally the guy's fault for overreacting like a crybaby -- a big, heart attack-having crybaby.
posted by mobunited at 6:12 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kirth, I'm not sure what your definition of "Basic industry" is, but surely a cement plant counts?

For some reason, you picked one of the two things in your list that I did not deny are basic industry to challenge me on. I wonder why you did that. OK, though - have you ever lived near a concrete (it isn't 'cement') plant? There are reasons those things are usually located in sparsely-populated areas.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:18 AM on January 20, 2011


New Jersey seriously needs to start worrying about turning into one gigantic slum, and suffering from severe depopulation. It's an absurdly expensive place to live, has fewer and fewer jobs, and isn't particularly desirable to anybody under the age of 35

It seems pretty silly to say that this will lead to eventual depopulation, since once people do have money to buy houses they like to buy them in NJ. I don't really see how those problems don't apply to any city suburbs, really.
posted by smackfu at 6:19 AM on January 20, 2011


When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down?

There have been a few recent successes on this front, although I don't think that Camden is sufficiently depopulated to resort to such a measure, especially since the pattern of abandonment seems to be mostly random. You'd have to find places to resettle the new residents.

Demolishing crime-ridden neighborhoods has been attempted many times before under the guise of urban renewal. These attempts have almost universally been disastrous .

DC underwent an interesting pattern of urban recovery. After the 1968 riots after MLK was shot, my entire neighborhood was virtually burned to the ground, and largely abandoned thereafter. In the past decade, recovery has finally taken hold; a few blocks were deemed unsalvagable, and torn to the ground to be replaced by modern (and quite expensive) apartment buildings. On the other hand, a few blocks (such as my own) were rebuilt building-by-building, which kept the historic character of the neighborhood mostly intact.

Although I would have hated to live there in the interim years, I'm glad that my neighborhood survived, unlike some others.

This is not an answer to Camden's problems. It may very well be a better strategy for the people of Camden to tear down portions of the city, and resettle the people elsewhere. It's been done before, and it can be done again, although I would caution that it hasn't been done successfully very often -- these attempts usually either drive away low-income residents, or fail spectacularly like Cabrini-Green. I somehow imagine that Chris Christie's anti-eminent-domain stance does not apply to low-income urban areas. However, if we can avoid destroying the fabric of the city, that would be nice.
posted by schmod at 6:19 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And admit that there exists somewhere, anywhere in the US where our system has completely failed, and the best we can do is tear it down? Would that that kind of rational thinking existed in our authority figures.

It wouldn't be a failure if we figured out a way to depopulate cities gracefully. Sometimes local economies change, people move, etc.
posted by empath at 6:21 AM on January 20, 2011


I'm puzzled by the calls for raising taxes -- I'm pretty sure the taxes in most NJ cities, Camden included, are already high enough percentage-wise to discourage anyone buying property there, or any industry locating there.

The problem is that the tax base is decimated. A lot of it is tax-exempt. That prison and waste plant people are talking about, for example. Much is tax-abated by the city trying to lure something, anything, there. Much the huge elephant in the room is that the city's taxing authority stops at the city line. And if anyone with money to do so moves to nearby bedroom communities, Camden is left with assessing taxes on bombed-out wrecks while the suburbs don't have trouble funding services.

It's the town-by-town taxation and government that kills places like Camden and Detroit. If both cities had unified metro government and taxation for the whole population area they would look quite different. When the taxes and the voters are only from the areas that people have abandoned, while police and fire must deal with the highest-risk areas, of course it's a disaster.
posted by tyllwin at 6:28 AM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


It seems pretty silly to say that this will lead to eventual depopulation, since once people do have money to buy houses they like to buy them in NJ. I don't really see how those problems don't apply to any city suburbs, really.

My point is that this pattern seems less and less likely to continue. Raising kids in New York City would have been unheard of in the 1990s. Today, it's actually a somewhat attractive proposition, as long as you have the money to do it.

The wealthy folks that Christie is trying to woo with his enormous $500k+ tax cuts don't want to live in the suburbs, and can easily afford to pay the extra taxes to live in the much more desirable areas in NYC near their jobs.

On the other hand, as the city becomes more desirable, poor families are being priced/pushed out to the suburbs. Don't forget that you can fit a lot of people in a McMansion.

And, yes. These problems are happening in other suburbs. The problem is that New Jersey is all suburbs, and the local politicians don't seem to quite grasp that their state is becoming increasingly undesirable to new residents, and prescribing the exactly wrong solutions to the state's woes. The middle class, which has long been the state's "bread and butter" is being driven away, when they could very easily be convinced to stay.
posted by schmod at 6:28 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


the sack of kittens
sinking in the icy creek
increases the cold

and no one can haz cheeseburger...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:34 AM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


It wouldn't be a failure if we figured out a way to depopulate cities gracefully. Sometimes local economies change, people move, etc.

The problem is human. Reasonable, logical, effective, graceful solutions take time, deliberation and careful, slow coordination. Generally what that looks like to observers and to a media that needs to sell shit three times a day is inaction. What does look like action is fist pounding, anger, yelling, staged PR appearances, 'tough on crime' b.s., etc. Humans like to think that 'doing something' means a lot of sound and fury when in fact doing the RIGHT thing often is exactly opposite.
posted by spicynuts at 6:39 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


"The poor have to help the poor," Davis says, "because the ones who make the money are helping the people with money."

Repeated for truth. This, folks, is what we've come to; what the best-and-brightest have worked hard to achieve. Two steps forward and twelve fucking steps back.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:39 AM on January 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ugfh, growing up Camden was shorthand for "Dangerous blight you don't want to get within 5 miles of." This isn't gonna help.
posted by The Whelk at 6:44 AM on January 20, 2011


have you ever lived near a concrete (it isn't 'cement') plant?

Assuming we're talking about the Camden Waterfront neighborhood, it is a cement plant. It's run by Holcim, an international giant in cement production.
posted by aramaic at 6:45 AM on January 20, 2011


Do not hold Newark as an example of blight being turned around or praise Booker. What is happening there is being hushed right now.

My sister is a paramedic for Jersey City and Newark's 911 system and is on the ground watching both cities fall apart.

Newark first cut their carjacking task force by more than half and had an increase in armed car thefts by more than 30 percent in the very first weekend. Then Newark announced the lay offs of almost half their force. The gangs and dealers started wearing shirts with the lay off date. There wasn't a block my sister passed that didn't flash that date at her.

Since the lay offs, crime is out of control. Even the paramedics are in kevlar because dealers pissed of their business is being interrupted are shooting at them. People are raining garbge and human waste on them from upper windows. The night of the big snow storm, people were being sent the long way out of town because the short way had 6 carjackings in under a two hour period. Locked ambulances are being broke into at scenes.

Are we seeing this in the news? No.

Now Jersey City is talking police lay offs and she's seeing some of the same starting there. And she's scared because the radio system in JC is spotty, and their panic buttons don't work in the worst city sections. Family members are putting knives on them when they enter these homes.

On the street is much worse than what reporters are sharing.
posted by FunkyHelix at 6:46 AM on January 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


Until I got lost there long ago, when I missed the 1 mile prior to exit barriered exit lane, I thought Camden was a sleepy harbor town. I was thinking while driving through that it didn't look very quaint. What a difference five states make eh?

Camden, Maine looks like the kind of place where fresh-faced wholesome American teens walk hand in hand to discuss their future and the junior commerce league.

Camden, NJ looks like it lost a war.
posted by The Whelk at 6:56 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


IvoShandor: He recommends that police chiefs across the country come up with a strategy for dealing with drastic cuts: What to do in case of a 10 percent reduction, a 20 percent reduction, and so on.

Unless there was some emergency meeting to address a sudden short-fall in income for government agencies, they are already doing something like this. Unless my little corner of the world is somehow miles ahead in terms of organization than the faltering communities of America, government agencies work on budgets every year, and it seems like it goes on all year long. Why? Always planning ahead. There's always someone charting the community income, checking how the government is doing against its projections, thinking ahead about what to cut. Always.

Because local governments can't get more money by drumming up business like the private sector does, they must budget, plan, forecast, and plan some more. Some agencies can get grant funding for special projects, but I don't think there are grants to "keep our police employed" (I could be wrong). And when it comes time to submit an official budget, there's probably direction to submit a few budget options: what can you do with the same amount of money you had last year, with a 5% cut, a 10% cut, or whatnot.

Some agencies receive requests to make larger cuts ahead of everyone else. Social services? Not as critical as police, so the year that the police must make a 5% cut, social services is cut by 25%.

There are smaller communities who have had to let go of their fire and police services every few years, because they weren't able to budget for those expenses. They then contract services from larger county agencies, but I don't think those are communities of 70,000 people.



- a large wastewater treatment plant
- active metal scrapyards
- a garbage burning power plant
- a prison
- a very large cement plant

That all points to a pretty healthy economy to me. Jobs, jobs, and jobs, right?


There are a lot of lower income jobs in those companies. Office jobs tend to pay better (though there are skilled people required for certain positions, who should be paid better, I don't think that's the majority of the work-force). That's why municipalities try to attract research and development companies, because they employ a different class of people, and can spin off related companies. That list of employers are more self-contained than engineering firms, architects, design companies, software designers, etc.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:57 AM on January 20, 2011


Well, if it's this bad, it's probably God punishing them.

If we help poor people, that's Socialism. They just need to pray harder.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:57 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey Cherry Hill and several other Camden County towns are actually quite nice. If all you know of Cherry Hill is the view from the highway, you don't get it. The residential parts are quite nice and not cheap either. Excellent school system. I agree that the only way Camden will get help is when more Camden crime spreads outside of the city limit.
posted by Mister_A at 7:01 AM on January 20, 2011


Ironically, Camden is also the home to the last house Walt Whitman lived in, a very nice little museum to the prophet of equality and spiritual acceptance you don't like to take a wrong turn going to. Which is, again ironically, right across the street from the New Jersey Maximum Security Prison.
posted by LucretiusJones at 7:06 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: "@Sarastro: Haha, I was actually looking for a good Detroit or Chernobyl Exclusion Zone style photoblog to link with this but I couldn't find one."

Camden: Google Images. (More accessible on some platforms than Google Street View.)
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on January 20, 2011


FunkyHelix, Jesus H. Christ, that's sad. Wait, no, sad isn't the right word...fucking tragic.
posted by snwod at 7:15 AM on January 20, 2011


When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down?

And where, pray tell, do you propose moving the tens of thousands of people who currently live there?

I don't have much to contribute, but it's particularly surreal reading about this given that I am, in fact, sitting in Camden right now, because that's where my office is. My understanding is we're basically here solely because the tax breaks were insane for basing a company here, and because of highways and the subway line that runs into Philly and various nearby Jersey suburbs, it's easy enough for me and my middle-class code-monkey coworkers to get in and out without exposing ourselves to any of the actual problems of this city. For us, the only real impact it has is that there's nowhere at all to eat lunch - I'm told if I hiked over to Cooper Hospital there'd be places, but that's a good half-mile away.

One of Camden's biggest problems is that Philly isn't nearly expensive enough. Property values in Philadelphia have gone up quite a lot over the past couple of decades, but not nearly enough to make Camden even remotely tempting as an annex. If Philly was outrageously expensive a la NYC, I could see some folks buying up super-cheap housing in Camden, using the 24-hour PATCO line to hop over straight into Center City Philadelphia for work and fun, and that being a kickoff to a rebirth of at least some of the city. But there's still a ton of areas in Philadelphia (Kensington, Point Breeze) that are still cheap and, while not as safe as one might like, are enormously safer than Camden.

It's kind of frustrating, really - Camden is next door to Philly, and it's not like Philly's a tiny town. It's the sixth-largest city in the nation, and the central business district is just a couple of miles from Camden, easily accessible via (toll) bridge and a 24-hour subway line. But there's barely anything here - Rutgers University's Camden campus, Cooper Hospital, a biggish campus for L3 Communications, and some modest tourist attractions like the aquarium and USS New Jersey. And, yes, prisons, and a tiny tiny bit of heavy industry. But Camden's so easy to get into - I've had coworkers commuting easily from the Northwestern suburbs of Philly - that it's hard to imagine what could really help; even if Rutgers added a thousand jobs and Cooper added five thousand, those jobs would be heavily drawn from the better-educated population that lives near but not in Camden, and until property values in the area really skyrocket, there just won't be an economic incentive for people with high incomes to even think about living here.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:16 AM on January 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


The Camden, N.J.-based company said it earned $113 million, or 33 cents a share, in the quarter ended Aug. 1, compared with a profit of $69 million, or 20 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Analysts had been forecasting EPS of 30 cents."

How do you like that "trickle down" Camden?


Right, because all that $113m in profit was generated in Camden.
posted by gjc at 7:19 AM on January 20, 2011




Thanks for leading me to this Chris Hedges video from Socialism2010: How Corporations Destroyed American Democracy.
posted by HLD at 7:21 AM on January 20, 2011


so the Camden police radio just stated the owner of a Body Shop (either like cars or like ..lotion, I'm not sure) has found someone's cell phone and is holding it hostage until they get a reward.
posted by The Whelk at 7:23 AM on January 20, 2011


Seems to be the case that cities grow because of economic opportunity. Look at China today: people leave the sparsely-populated farmland and head to cities to enjoy the chance of a better life.

At some point, for whatever reason, the economic opportunity dries up. Some people would claim this is because pressure for higher wages and increased business taxes push the employers out of the cities to more profitable locations. Others would claim that white-flight, corruption, surbanization, and corporate greed create deteriorating conditions. Either way, eventually a tipping point is reached beyond which little hope exists to put a community back on a prosperous and beneficial path.

When the economic opportunity leaves, some people are ahead of the curve and profit from the transition. Most are caught at the curve and break even. Some get left behind entirely to fester in the squalor.

It would seem that the people on this end of the historic-economic story are in just as much poverty as the people who initially left the farms to take advantage of the opportunity in the cities.

There are two main problems, though: the farm life involved certain ancient customs of social networks that have not been able to evolve in the urban setting yet. There is a systemic dimension to the concentration of poverty in these former economic centers that can turn someone who would have been a destitute but good-hearted plowhand on the farm into a drug addict in the city. It is easier to evoke public sympathy for pulling the plowhand into posperity than for helping the drug addict to recover, though. (Not to mention any racial tones the story must necessarily include).

Secondly, there is a capability of self-sufficiency back on the farm that simple does not exist in the city. No matter how bad things got, my grandparents could always grow enough to keep from starving in the land attached to their house. No one has that option in decaying urban cores.

Moving from the farm to the city was a glamorous experience that we thought very little about as a culture simply because it was sufficiently glamorous to be satisfying devoid of any intellectual observation.

As a society, we have to devise a narrative for transitioning decaying cities into functioning societies (akin to moving from the city back to the farm, in some sense), or else we're headed to Thunderdome.
posted by jefficator at 7:26 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


@Tomorrowful: It doesn't help that SEPTA regional rail is so good. People who can commute in from the also pretty affordable burbs easily. They don't need to live in Philly, much less Camden.

Philly has so many advantages compared to a place like Camden. It really did manage to make a decent conversion to a white collar economy and all those white collar workers contribute to the city through the wage tax even though they don't live there. There is a sense of civic pride about Philly even for people from the burbs. It has history, strong tourist locations, sports teams. People want it to be nice because they work there and send there kids there for college.

The city has an identity and the surrounding suburbs consider themselves part of it. The rest of the state hates the place but those suburbs help to elect people like Rendell so the city doesn't go completely ignored in state government.

No one outside Camden has that kind of interest in Camden.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:31 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


A relative lived in Camden in the 60's while her father opened up a factory. Probably had something to do with Campbells or Libby's. It was a dump then. Her father had to go to meetings with the management of the local company he was working for, and they were usually accompanied by guys with no noses and who tried to intimidate and extort. The union bosses were worse.


I wonder what proportion of Camden's tax levy goes toward the pension fund for their employees?

We can blame government all we want, but the vast majority of these local government financial melt-downs are caused because of pension obligations. Office holders of the past made deals so the cop and firefighter "heros" wouldn't go on strike, knowing they would be long out of office when the bills were due, and union bosses knew they and their brethren would be able to suckle at the public trough for life.

Now, ultimately, this IS government's fault for caving in to what should have been obviously impossible demands.
posted by gjc at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2011


SPUTNIK: "Camden police union rejects concession plan"

In other words, on some level the police department is doing this to themselves. If they could save 100 jobs by spreading a pay cut throughout all their workers, isn't that a better choice? Camden already has very high property taxes, don't they?

Camden has a long history of widespread corruption in public service. In 2001, Mayor Milan was convicted of 14 corruption charges and got 7 years in the slammer. He staged a robbery of his offices, solicited bribes from mobsters and was part of a large money laundering scheme.

Senator Wayne "The King of Double Dipping" Bryant, who used to represent Camden in the state senate is serving time for corruption charges.

Last year, a federal investigation of the police force uncovered corruption in the Camden PD. Five officers were falsifying evidence, which caused charges on 185 cases to be dismissed.

There's even a facebook page called "Stop the Corruption in Camden County"
posted by zarq at 7:44 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There would appear to be a bank robbery going on.
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 AM on January 20, 2011


IvoShandor: "Camden is only the tip of the iceberg, says Walker. He recommends that police chiefs across the country come up with a strategy for dealing with drastic cuts: What to do in case of a 10 percent reduction, a 20 percent reduction, and so on. But in the end, it's not up to the police departments. It's up to the politicians who fund them—or, perhaps, don't. "We simply have to raise taxes, period," says Walker. "I don't know any other way out.""

Or stop locking up non-violent offenders? Oh, yeah, we can't question *that*. (except, thankfully, some conservatives are finally starting to do so).
posted by symbioid at 8:00 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's even a facebook page called "Stop the Corruption in Camden County"

Camden County is not Camden.
Camden County is made up of almost 50 cities, townships, and boroughs (Including Camden City). Some of these towns and boroughs are very nice.

Ironic fact: Camden's motto is "In a Dream, I Saw a City Invincible"
posted by SPUTNIK at 8:08 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Camden police union rejects concession plan

Yes, it's quite clear that organized labor destroyed Camden, just like the bunch of good-for-nothing Reds they are.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:14 AM on January 20, 2011


I wonder what proportion of Camden's tax levy goes toward the pension fund for their employees?

We can blame government all we want, but the vast majority of these local government financial melt-downs are caused because of pension obligations.



This is such a tired argument.

The Kellogg School estimates unfunded state pension plans are on the hook for about 3 trillion dollars, and city/local unfunded pension plans are liable for about 575 billion.

Notice anything there? That's right - UNFUNDED. So who are the criminals here? Blaming the workers is ludicrous.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:21 AM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Newark first cut their carjacking task force by more than half and had an increase in armed car thefts by more than 30 percent in the very first weekend.

I don't think this statistic is true. Not that FunkyHelix is being dishonest, but it has the hallmarks of a statistic that someone told someone who told someone who told someone that eventually ceases to be true because the loss of context makes it appear to mean something it doesn't.

The problem with what 30% represents: So, for two days, there were 30% more reported armed car thefts than what? The previous annual rate of carjackings per day? The previous week's rate? The previous weekend's rate? The previous percentage share of carjacking compared to other reported crimes (and they'd have to be reported, since you wouldn't get trials and convictions over the weekend) over the previous year, week, or weekend?

The problem with causation: And in any case, did the rate stay 30% higher after the weekend was over? And how much does the rate usually vary? 13 carjackings this weekend is a 30% increase from 10 last weekend, but seems to be within the range of normal fluctuation. A weekend with 2 carjacking each day would have 100% increase in the rate of carjackings per day if compared against a prior annual rate averaging to one carjacking per day, but that annual rate might be composed entirely of days with either 2 carjackings or none at all. Maybe 30% was just an outlier, and there's no stable increase in carjackings to attribute to disbanding the carjacking squad. Maybe 30% isn't even an outlier, and there's no meaningful increase in carjackings to attribute to the disbanding at all.
posted by Marty Marx at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Riding through the streets of Camden in Google Maps is a seriously jarring experience.

Who hasn't driven through a rough neighborhood, doors locked, clutching the steering wheel like a security blanket? And why do you leave the windows up? It's not just to keep the riff-raff physically out of your vehicle, of course, but to maintain that distance. Now you can be the calm observer, and it's exciting, like seeing the tiger a few feet behind the glass at the zoo. It's no accident there's a prison in Camden.

You are not behind the glass, they are. Here they are even further removed, conveniently and permanently frozen in Street View time for our voyeuristic power trips. And even if the medium changes to something even more titillatingly realistic (3-D!), and Camden heals, the location for these scenes will just move to some new neglected community, because in America we need losers as much as we need television and religion and guns. What would we be without them?
posted by swift at 8:38 AM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, isn't this right across the river from Philadelphia? Wake up, Philly.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:38 AM on January 20, 2011


In Fully Automatic America, Kaj Larsen (Navy SEAL turned journalist) goes to the Knob Creek gun orgy Machinegun Shoot (where you can completely legally shoot fully automatic weapons and buy just about lots of stuff that goes boom), then goes to Camden, NJ to see the other side of American gun culture along with the U.S. Marshals as they stuff-in doors looking for armed bad guys. And just what kind of firepower the local police are up against from a look inside the evidence vault. He talks to local community members who live "downrage", the most infamous gun dealer in Philly, and the "Guru of Gunshot Wounds" @ Camden's hospital. A pretty well rounded look at the violence in Camden.

One of the interviewees points out that NJ has pretty strict gun laws, but that right across the river is the State of Pennsylvania, which has much looser gun laws than NJ.

Same problem Mexico has: Buy guns where they're cheap an legal in America, send them to where they're hard to get, start shooting up the neighborhood. And a whole lot of them seem to be bought, no ID or check of any kind, cash on the barrel head, at gun flea-markets gun shows or as straw purchases from licensed dealers.
Guns dont' kill people, people kill people. But I think the gun helps. You won't get to far shouting "BANG! BOOM! RAT-A-TAT-TAT! unless he's got a pretty dodgy heart
-Eddie Izzard
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:43 AM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


"When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down"

octothorpe : It's a little tough to get elected with that as a campaign promise.

I don't know, I think it depends on how it's phrased: "Under my leadership, we will see a city freed from urban blight. I will make it a priority to ensure that, through a comprehensive city renewal program, empty derelict buildings will be a thing of the past, and we'll see this all returned to a time before the decay took hold."

Which sounds a lot like someone who is going to fix everything, when it could be just as easily read as someone who is going to tear it all down and return it back to empty fields. Not that this is a good idea, just that someone could run on it, if they were disingenuous enough.
posted by quin at 8:47 AM on January 20, 2011


"When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down"

octothorpe : It's a little tough to get elected with that as a campaign promise.


Fuck, I wish I could remember where I heard it (NPR almost certainly), but they did a report on a small town (I think in upstate NY) that basically did raze its blighted downtown, a program pushed by the then mayor. They tore it all down, opened it's arms to developers... and heard crickets. Echoing over a razed former downtown. Developers weren't interested.

And that was before the econopocalypse started, though maybe not by much.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2011


Not that this is a good idea, just that someone could run on it, if they were disingenuous enough.

Yeah, but where are you gonna find someone THAT disingenuous? In POLITICS?

posted by Aquaman at 8:56 AM on January 20, 2011


It's not all bad, for instance in this photo one gentleman appears to be giving a stranger in a car driving directions.

Those directions being "Go see my man around the corner."

Nice looking dog though
posted by electroboy at 8:59 AM on January 20, 2011



Yeah, isn't this right across the river from Philadelphia? Wake up, Philly.


Yes, across a river that marks the border between two states. Not much Philly can do.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:00 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was being a little jokey with my answer to "why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down" but the truth is that there's probably never going to be the money or political capital to do something like that on a large scale. Where would the people go? Who's going to buy all of the individually owned properties? Who's going to pay to tear them down? How do you go about dissembling the political structure? What about all of the private companies located there? Federally owned property? State and county owned property. Camden's the seat of Camden county so you'd have to relocate all that.
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 AM on January 20, 2011


In an interview a while back, Jon Stewart said that instead of Democrats vs. Republicans or liberals vs. conservatives we need to see honest vs. the corrupt as the real game-changing fight. Reading these articles seems to reinforce this idea.
There never is enough money to pay for things when the cash is going out the back door in some crooked politician's pocket.
Let's stop blaming teachers and police unions. If the pension funds were funded all along as they were supposed to be, we wouldn't be where we are now. Crooks(politicians and union officials) looted those monies years ago. Now the public is being asked to pay...again.
posted by sciencejock at 9:05 AM on January 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I wish I could remember where I heard it (NPR almost certainly), but they did a report on a small town (I think in upstate NY) (...)

I'm guessing you're thinking of this episode of "This American Life," on Niagara Falls, NY.
posted by chalkbored at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing you're thinking of this episode of "This American Life," on Niagara Falls, NY.

BINGO!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:22 AM on January 20, 2011


Clearly, the solution here is to cut taxes.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:22 AM on January 20, 2011


The question to me is, how can such a small town have so much basic industry and yet be so poor?

The examples given are mostly highly automated facilities that take up a lot of space, but don't really employ that many people.

Wastewater in particular probably doesn't net them a lot of money because water and wastewater is frequently supported by service fees and the agreements are multi-year deals. If they didn't negotiate effectively, they may be breaking even and left without money to upgrade their facilities.
posted by electroboy at 9:44 AM on January 20, 2011


It's not all bad, for instance in this photo one gentleman appears to be giving a stranger in a car driving directions.

CLARK GRISWOLD: "Excuse me, I wonder if you could tell me how to get back on the expressway?"
posted by wenestvedt at 9:45 AM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I was talking about 'tearing the thing down' i was talking about just tearing down unused housing and unoccupied buildings, move public housing elsewhere, relocate businesses so they are closer to each other. Transforming it from a huge decrepit metropolis to a small town. Don't try to draw new business or residents, just figure out a way to move existing ones closer together, and demolish the parts of the city that are no longer being used. Obviously you can't do it immediately, but as a long term goal. "Rebuilding" is a long term process, and "debuilding" could be an equally valid one.
posted by empath at 9:46 AM on January 20, 2011


Probably Youngstown, Ohio. Their mayor was on a lot of news shows talking about his downsizing plan.
posted by electroboy at 9:57 AM on January 20, 2011


Google Street View and Image Search tell me Camden looks like pretty much every other US town or city I've been in in the past ten years. Mindblowing, heartbreaking poverty is pervasive in the US, outside major metropolitan areas--and mostly invisible, because of that.
posted by byanyothername at 10:06 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Camden: Invincible Cities photolog by Camilo Jose Vergara. previously
posted by HyperBlue at 10:11 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Probably Youngstown, Ohio. Their mayor was on a lot of news shows talking about his downsizing plan.

Exactly what I was thinking of.
posted by empath at 10:18 AM on January 20, 2011


"Camden" exists within every city of considerable size in the US of A – it's called a ghetto. In this case, the ghetto happens to be the size of the entire city.


P.S. not that this matters, but according to Wikipedia: In 2007, the racial makeup of the city was 50.35% Non-Hispanic Black, 6.84% Non-Hispanic Whites, 2.45% Asian, 0.54% Native American, 0.07% Pacific Islander, and 22.83% from other races. 3.92% of residents were from two or more races. 42.82% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race, majority of which are Puerto Ricans. 5.9% of the population is foreign-born.
posted by nikoniko at 11:15 AM on January 20, 2011


"It was depressing, and shocking considering that I got there by driving through Maplewood (which is extremely affluent)."

Sounds like my old neighborhood, Ivy Hill and Irvington. It wasn't so bad back in the early '70s...
posted by zoogleplex at 12:03 PM on January 20, 2011


all have soapboxes have slats, the nails cannot support weight much longer.
posted by clavdivs at 12:33 PM on January 20, 2011


The first time I was ever in New Jersey some friends and I came up to Philly to see the city and crossed the bridge into Camden. We realized too late that the toll bridge back was cash only and that we didn't have enough cash between us to pay.

Stuck, we found the first exit and roamed around searching for a bank or convenience store with an ATM. We drove quite a while up and down the ruined streets searching, searching until we spotted the one and only bank. Hooray! I popped out of the car and joined the long line of all sorts of people waiting for the one ATM for miles. I finally made it up to the "on-deck" circle and the guy in front of me started to finish up. Before I could take a step towards the machine I caught a flash out of the corner of my eye.

Wham! I landed on my ass. Up to the ATM without even so much as a howdy-doo is the street walking hoochie-mama who had just shoved me down. She made a quick withdrawal and off she went. No one in the line said a word to her or to me. No one gave me a hand up or bothered to find out how I was. I am pretty sure that if I'd hit my head I would have lost my place in line.

They say first impressions are the most important.

Welcome to New Jersey.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:06 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no idea of its origin, but the odor you can smell coming from the city is one of the worst i've ever smelled in my life.

While it's unlikely the greatest city in the US smells like a new car filled with freshly baked apple pie, in Camden's case the odor matches the situation
posted by sidewaysglance at 1:37 PM on January 20, 2011


When a city depopulates like this, why don't they just tear the whole fucking thing down?

And where, pray tell, do you propose moving the tens of thousands of people who currently live there?


The Astrodome? That should work very well for them.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:47 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember back about 20 years ago, a road trip that took a wrong turn and wound up driving through Camden. It was a hot summer day, and the car had no A/C, but we very quickly found ourselves rolling up the windows and locking the doors. I remember seeing some guy in a full trench coat standing on a street corner, and had to wonder what he was hiding under it to be worth wearing it in the heat.

I think there are no easy answers to fix places like Camden and Detroit; at least not politically easy. I suspect that as tyllwin states, a unified metro-area government would at least force the surrounding (richer) communities to treat places like this as part of their local infrastructure, rather than something that can be ignored.
posted by fings at 2:00 PM on January 20, 2011


It is easy to dehumanize Camden as a "dead city," but it's a real one, filled with real, living breathing people. Not drug dealers and thugs but there are families and children there, men and women who would like to leave (I don't think anyone wants to stay) but are essentially trapped in that hellhole. Poverty is a black hole, and as the city deteriorates so do those services that give the people who live there a way to leave. No money to leave, nowhere to go, your children are in schools that will leave them woefully unprepared to find a job or make money so they can leave . . .

I watched a segment on kids in Camden for a sociology class. It was schlocky, presented by Barbara Walters or someone similar, but even the schlock couldn't hide how bad these kids had it. One guy's dream was to be the first in his family to graduate high school. That should really put into perspective where the population of that city is coming from, and how laughable the idea of depopulating the city is. Where are you going to put everyone?

For what it's worth--the people fueling Camden's drug trade are coming from Moorestown, Cherry Hill, Collingswood, the "nice" areas. They buy their shit, contribute to the problem, then drive back to their homes to go about their business.
posted by schroedinger at 2:06 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


What gets me is that Philly has things going on that Camden doesn't (e.g. universities, hospitals) and so it seems like, city-wide, you don't get the Camden desperation. But take a drive around West Philly between 52nd and 63rd, and contemplate that the high school graduation rate is 50%. What is going to happen to these kids? They deal, they get a felony rap, and then who is going to hire them? It's a scandalous situation.
posted by angrycat at 2:12 PM on January 20, 2011


And, I too am amused that, if a story about a cop doing his/her job is posted, it's all, like "fuck the po-po", but god forbid we actually get rid of them.

Has the definition of policing changed to "Police: Committing murder, rape and drug dealing so you don't have to"?

The idea that most people would want to rid their communities of murderers, violent offenders, rapists and drug dealers isn't difficult to understand; I don't see why it's any more difficult to understand when it's police officers doing the same things.
posted by yeloson at 2:33 PM on January 20, 2011


At some point people are going to realize that Capitalism only works if there are actually enough jobs for everyone who is willing and capable of holding them. What happens after that is anyone's guess.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 3:27 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


@zoogleplex. It was Irvington. Somehow, I forgot to mention that tiny detail.

(I can also anecdotally confirm the anecdote about the bigtime drug dealers residing in the "nice" areas. There was a guy in my High School who was a major kingpin, and had successfully avoided arrest/prosecution most likely thanks to living in one of the "nice" areas. "Everybody knew," and he never dealt locally, opting instead to make frequent trips into Newark. When the cops finally took him down, he had amassed several hundred thousand dollars in cash, numerous assault weapons, and a variety of evidence connecting him to organized crime in addition to the drugs and related paraphernalia. The guys in Newark and Camden had nothing compared to this kid.)

And on an unrealated tangent, the cops/DEA also definitely knew, and allegedly waited to take him down until they could guarantee a near-life sentence for him and his family. This was dumb, because a lot more people got drugs while the authorities waited, and the guy killed himself after he realized how much time he was going to have to do)
posted by schmod at 3:27 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just after 1 p.m. on Day One in post-layoff Camden, the radio call went out for all available officers in the northern sector to flood a known drug corner at Sixth and York Streets.

Officers quickly showed up in their squad cars, lights flashing, ready to spread into drug-infested North Camden to clear corners and make arrests. Such a mobilization ordinarily draws between seven and 10 officers, a supervisor on the scene said.

Three patrolmen showed up Wednesday.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:37 PM on January 20, 2011


It's late to chime back in, but looking at the cement factory and the prison and the other "industries" I have to say so what if they do create some jobs? It doesn't matter how many jobs they create if they're jobs like Tomorrowful's. No offense to Tomorrowful, who didn't choose this situation, but those jobs don't help the community as a whole.

we're basically here solely because the tax breaks were insane

so the company contributes less than their fair share of taxes

it's easy enough for me and my middle-class code-monkey coworkers to get in and out without exposing ourselves to any of the actual problems of this city

and the employees don't live there, so they aren't pumping anything into local business or paying Camden property taxes either. So these jobs add nothing to the city as a whole. But hey, they use the roads, and depend on the police and fire service. If anything, they take away from the city.
posted by tyllwin at 3:49 PM on January 20, 2011


Big chunks of the north side of Milwaukee are like this, complete with the atrocious graduation rates. Those of you who want to tear it all down totally underestimate the amount of racism in the suburbs. The western suburbs here have resisted light rail for decades, largely because it would bring "undesirables" into their neighborhood. There is no fucking way they'd let people move in if the north side was leveled. And there is no fucking way they'd let their taxes be used to rebuild it. Taxes are for building stadiums and highways, not housing for the poor, stupid!

Suburbanites DO. NOT. CARE. what happens to poor black and brown city dwellers.
posted by desjardins at 6:13 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, what kind of employers do not require a high school degree and don't care if you have a criminal record, but pay a living wage? I cannot think of any. What kinds of businesses are supposed to relocate there and hire the locals?
posted by desjardins at 6:16 PM on January 20, 2011




Clearly, the solution here is to cut taxes.

It worked in SimCity.
posted by meowzilla at 6:54 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't stop listening to the scanner. Just now, Green acura two hispanic males, shots fired at a white minivan with two black males inside, scared shitless cop rattling off intersections and chasing, you can hear the siren and his engine roaring as he talks...he lost them...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:24 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


^ He (or another officer) recognizes the green car from a previous incident, and thinks they know where the guy lives.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:28 PM on January 20, 2011


They check the rear of the house, the car isn't there but his family is outside talking on cell phones.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:34 PM on January 20, 2011


"Who is the detective on that shooting..."

"Perkins, he's the only one in tonight."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:14 PM on January 20, 2011


If I understand the scanner correctly, a woman just called in a police vehicle being burgled.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:55 PM on January 20, 2011


^ confirmed. I'm...I'm turning this off now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:01 PM on January 20, 2011


I actually laughed when I reading furiousgeorge's comment re: the burgled police car. Then I realized that this is not a sitcom.
posted by angrycat at 3:57 AM on January 21, 2011


Suburbanites DO. NOT. CARE. what happens to poor black and brown city dwellers.

Doesn't that sort of go without saying? I mean, isn't that why they built the suburbs with all that Federal housing money and then built the highways to bring the suburban workers in to their 9-to-5s in the first place, so they wouldn't have to care (or so they thought)? Of course nobody ever thought that their kids and grand kids would actually want to move back into those places and were willing to pay outrageous amounts of money to reclaim the neighborhoods that their forefathers had abandoned only fifty years before.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:08 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]




Cash-Strapped States Seeking A Way To Declare Bankruptcy.

Oh, this will turn out well. I think the best solution is to cut taxes, especially on the upper brackets.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2011


Why all the sudden interest in Camden? Its a tragedy thats been playing out for decades already. Maybe its that its suddenly more relevant to everybody else not caught up in these politely contained war zones? In which case, you're gonna love street viewing Trenton, NJ Newark, NJ Irvington, NJ Newburg, NY Flint, MI St Louis, MO Gary, IN

The inconvenient truth is municipal gov't is often an expensive publicly funded farce. Two medium sized towns each have their own police depts. 2 Captains, in fact 2 whole police dept admin, support and enforcement staffs duplicating each other's efforts.

There was a book that came out about 15 years ago talking about how you could save Billions in munipal budget dollars by eliminating these duplicated efforts nationwide.

You'd sooner get elected pledging to tear the town down though.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:19 AM on January 21, 2011


there has been some speculation that Christie is first going after public pensions, then the redundancies in municipal gov't.
posted by angrycat at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2011


The inconvenient truth is municipal gov't is often an expensive publicly funded farce. Two medium sized towns each have their own police depts. 2 Captains, in fact 2 whole police dept admin, support and enforcement staffs duplicating each other's efforts.

Why not just eliminate all the state and local expenditures and just centralize everything? Just think how much we'd save if we got rid of city councils, county councils, and state governments!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:30 AM on January 21, 2011


"Why all the sudden interest in Camden? Its a tragedy thats been playing out for decades already. Maybe its that its suddenly more relevant to everybody else not caught up in these politely contained war zones?"

I feel like overall, it's being pointed out that there are quite a number of places where the "Dream of America" is in some pretty sorry shape. Camden is just one of them, you've mentioned several others. Besides acknowledging the fact that these places exist at all in the face of USA Cheerleading, it's also important to figure out whether the number of these places is growing and what places may be sliding down toward this kind of thing.

It seems the general consensus here is "yes, they're growing, and here's what to look out for near you."
posted by zoogleplex at 11:51 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Philly was regarded that way and growing up it certainly felt like a city on the edge of the abyss.

It may have felt that way (and in some neighborhoods, it still does), but there was still old money with luxury residences and fancy restaurants. And thriving working-class neighborhoods with butchers and bakers and diners. And universities. And major cultural institutions. It's not really comparable to Camden.

Either way you look at it "Guardian Angels" scare the shit out of me. Police are trained to deal with bad situations, they make mistakes all the time. Untrained Police groups will make those same mistakes, only more often and without legal consequences.

Fear not. General opinion is that they're all talk.
posted by desuetude at 10:48 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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