Better Police, Less Crime in Camden, NJ

Camden NJ has thrice been named the most dangerous city in America. Camden suffered not only from high crime but from poor policing under a rigid union contract. Jim Epstein described the situation in 2014:

Camden’s old city-run police force abused its power and abrogated its duties. It took Camden cops one hour on average to respond to 911 calls, or more than six times the national average. They didn’t show up for work 30 percent of the time, and an inordinate number of Camden police were working desk jobs. A union contract required the city to entice officers with extra pay to get them to accept crime-fighting shifts outside regular business hours. Last year, the city paid $3.5 million in damages to 88 citizens who saw their convictions overturned because of planted evidence, fabricated reports, and other forms of police misconduct.

In 2012, the murder rate in Camden was about five times that of neighboring Philadelphia—and about 18 times the murder rate in New York City.

In May of 2013, however, the entire police department was disbanded nullifying the union contract and an entirely new county police department was put into place.

The old city-run force was rife with cops working desk jobs, which Cordero saw as a waste of money and manpower. He and Thomson hired civilians to replace them and put all uniformed officers on crime fighting duty. Boogaard says she didn’t see a single cop during the first year she lived in the city. “Now I see them all the time and they make friendly conversation.” Pastor Merrill says the old city-run force gave off a “disgruntled” air, and the morale of Metro police is noticeably better. “I want my police to be happy,” he says.

Without the expensive union contracts the new force added officers and also introduced more technology such as Shotspotter. So what has been the result? Violent crime is down and clearances are up (charts from Daniel Bier, who also notes that the fall in violent crime and increase in convictions far exceed that in comparison to New Jersey more generally or Philadelphia.)

As I have long argued, we need more police and better policing in America.


Without better policing would more policemen do any good?

Yes, unless police officers are zero-marginal-product employees on that particular force. (Another problem emerges when the courts refuse to sentence anyone to more than token punishment. See Theodore Dalrymple on Britain today).

unless police officers are zero-marginal-product employees

In terms of desk jobs the closet full of sticky notes has never been safer.

Absent market forces, there's no reason to assume the marginal value of government employees isn't negative. Behaviors like planting evidence and alienating the citizenry are negative returns activities that this police force seemed to specialize in.

" Behaviors like planting evidence and alienating the citizenry are negative returns activities that this police force seemed to specialize in."

Hmmm, I think an example of negative marginal return might be a firefighter who commits arson in order to generate 'demand' for the firehouse that the gov't is considering closing.

A cop planting evidence is bad incentives, supervision, controls, etc. After all it isn't like there's a lack of real crimes to address in the city! In private sector terms I would say that would be analogous to an employee who steals from the company. In terms of 'negative marginal value' that individual person might be for the company but it doesn't necessarily mean the company is at a point where adding more employees is negative marginal value.

Behaviors like planting evidence and alienating the citizenry are negative returns activities that this police force seemed to specialize in.

They alienate you, because you have an adolescent mentality.

The zero marginal product worker hypothesis has gotten a lot more attention on this blog while the zero marginal product commentator seems to be largely unexplored despite the abundance of empirical evidence.

You tell em hun! My boyfriend will be over tonight, so swing by with food and pick up my kids. You keep fighting the good fight! #resistance

Amen to better and more police, both. If we had twice as many cops on the streets, the data says that it would reduce not just crime, but the various pernicious forms of injustice that have gotten so much attention in the last few years.

If America is facing a crime crisis, maybe it should study President Captain Bolsonaro's reforms. He has, by executive order, expanded the police powers to shoot criminals and has allowed common Brazilians to buy guns to protect their homes.

haha, how's the pension reform going?

Pretty well, actually. President Captain Bolsonaro is negotiating with Congress the adoption of the Chilean model. By July, the Administration hopes to have passed through Congress a reform that will save a trillion Brazilian reais (about a quarter trillion dollars) in ten years and jumpstart the economy. President Captain Bolsonaro has also vowed to enlarge current social programs and has fired Colombian-born Education Minister, Mister Veléz. All that in the first hundred days of his Administration.

At the rate Bolsonaro is solving problems, he'll put himself out of a job by mid-summer. would he be interested in a position with Camden city council?

Indeed, he is a maverick president who doesn't play by the rules. His middle name is literally Messiah (Messias).

I don't know. He has said he was not intending to run for president again in 2022 (he opposes re-election), but he said he is been pressured into running again anyway.

Here we see perverse government incentives. Propagandist for right wing Brazilian President is probably getting paid by post...hence he starts posting for his man on an English language blog.

Messiah indeed.

It is not true at all. Actually, President Captain Bolsonaro has slashed propaganda expenses. He has said Brazilian media is the enemy. He has said that, in the age of social media, the government doesn't need the middleman anymore. It can - and will - talk directly to the people and respond to its demands.

"If America is facing a crime crisis,.."

It's not.

"maybe it should study President Captain Bolsonaro's reforms. He has, by executive order, expanded the police powers to shoot criminals and has allowed common Brazilians to buy guns to protect their homes."

The right views police as hired thugs, little better than bouncers.

The left views police as a professional calling.

One of these views is the future, the other is the past.

Not true. President Captain Bolsonaro is a rightwing leader and he sees being a policeman as a calling and he has signed an Executive Order allowing cops to shoot suspects.
Crime seems to be out of control in America's neighborhoods. Maybe taking a leaf from Brazil's President Captain Bolsonaro's playbook would be a good idea.

Sad right wing virtue signalling.

Best case, such a silly order is meaningless, applying only to areas where cops already had justification to shoot.

Worst case, no nation in history has ever been on a good track when gov't officers are executing people in the street. Brazil is not going to be the first.

President Capatin Bolsonaro has cut the red tape and made it easier to authorities dismiss cases involving police officers shooting people.

referring to the man as "President Captain" makes you sound ridiculous

Crime in Brazil is worse than in America. Homicide in Brazil ranks near the top for crime ridden Latin America. A true shithole among shitholes. #MAGA2020

Not true. The situation is under control.

NB: they also were able to hire 50% more officers by escaping the salary and benefits rules of the new department.

"As I have long argued, we need more police and better policing in America."

...typical naive, knee-jerk solution to "crime".

America now brims with federal/state/local police/LEO's and a stunning array of other armed government personnel in agencies with no policing mission.
Militarized police are heavily armed, while the governments relentlessly seek to disarm the populace.
America is already close to a 'police state'; corruption is routine in police agencies large and small.

More government personnel is never the solution to any problem -- Alex seems confused about the 'libertarian' perspective.

Interesting that the generally accepted concept of marginal utility doesn't seem to apply to police personnel.

Aside from that, doesn't the uniforms and language of cops seem to indicate that rather than being "public servants" they're more of a well-compensated occupying army with a mission that stresses their own welfare over a peaceful community?

...typical naive, knee-jerk solution to "crime".

There is no other solution to murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary. If you don't conceive of those as problems meriting a collective response, you can rent a cheap house in Honduras and be free of effective policing.

This is a blatant false dichotomy. 'the exact form of policing we have now, or NOTHING!'. Grow up, expand your imagination a bit.

Grow up, expand your imagination a bit.

My imagination tells me that economics professors and random libertarian twits are not people with whom I'd bother consulting in searching for ways to improve the efficiency of police forces.

"more and better policing". Seems like a rhetorical flourish to make an argument for the Internet where non exists. Who objects to better policing? No one. "More and better policing" can be two ways:

Add more police and then make them better
- The liberal orientated skeptic here might note that often programs get half finished. More police might be added but the better part forgotten....instead a half-assed 'arrest quota' is implemented in place making a bad deal for both police and public.

- Make police better then add on that -

Again good idea but then whose objecting? What police chief ever came into office promising, publically at least, that most of the force will be sitting behind desks and collect all sorts of special overtime to even set foot on the street to do anything other than buy coffee for the office?

"More and better policing" is in there somewhere with "Work smarter, not harder." At any rate the police, like teachers, can only do so much with what they are given

Its a data point on how bad things have to get to overcome the union and other regulatory barriers to actually getting the job done. Would be interesting to see an analysis of what this approach might do for another city, say Chicago, albeit there's always apples to oranges counter-arguments.

Libertarian/right leaners are anti-union except when it comes to the sainted firefighters & cops. Prison guards too. Somehow the magic of the market disappears when applied to the carceral state. Garbage collectors on the other hand....Getting rid of police unions is a GREAT idea if it can be done. Likely to make the force more repsonsive to the community and couldn’t be worse than what we have.

Can you link to some posts/essays/comments by libertarians who like police/prison guard unions? I don't recall seeing any, myself.

The most obvious example was Scott Walker’s exemption for cop and firemen unions from his law to gut other public unions like teachers. Mark Levine regularly signs are off his broadcast with a paean to law enforcement while scourging other unions. A 5 minute google search shows lots of other examples like this:

So what you really meant to say was, "portions of the GOP", not libertarians, which is a different portion of the GOP than the groups you cited?

I realize its difficult to understand the nuanced differences of your outgroup, but they do exist.

It seems the city police were doing a better job in 2003 than the county police today. Is that just a graph illusion? If not, what changed over the next few years? I would guess the downturn reduced funding for the city government in general.
I'm not sure the problem is a lack of police in this country as much as it is poor distribution. Safe cities with few criminals tend to dedicate too many resources to the police department. It's the same with schools.
Which leads me to wonder if a key part of this solution wasn't shifting the police to the county from the city. It seems to me that county government is underutilized. It offers the ability to leverage more resources while retaining, and in some cases improving, accountability.

Those are promising trend line.

Baltimore has a hard county/city distinction that I guess had been present with Camden. It got me thinking about something and I found this.

They don't have Camden, but I bet it's a lot like the Baltimore City/Baltimore County split.

Baltimore County's police are only 10% or so black and the county works much better. Baltimore City police department is very black, 40%, and most of the Baltimore government is black run. Like everything else in Baltimore City government that is probably part of the corruption and incompetence problem. We just had another black mayor ensnared in a corruption scandal. Articles on the incompetence of the city government towards police are well known.

DC metro has much the same problem with its incompetent black union and leadership. I think there was even a reason article on it, maybe it was somewhere else.

Baltimore has a hard county/city distinction

No, Maryland has 24 counties. One of them is referred to as 'Baltimore City' by convention, and another 'Baltimore County'. The distinction is one of nomenclature, not function.

County government is king in Maryland. Only about 15% of the population lives in incorporated municipalities.

Sounds great.

The dense settlement in Gloucester, Camden, and Burlington Counties has a population of about 900,000. It's a component of Greater Philadelphia and constitutes about 18% of the whole dense settlement.

Other than sheer inertia, it's difficult to conceive of a reason to divvy up responsibility for police patrols among the 101 municipalities in those three counties (especially when you have municipalities notable for a deficit of human capital and an abundance of hoodlums).

You have three counties. If you had two or three departments in each handling the different aspects of law enforcement (enforcing court orders, dignitary protection and security in public buildings NOS, security in schools, child protective and foster care, jails, and investigation-and-patrol) would you really have entered the territory where diseconomies of scale have set it?

Statewide violent crime dropped 19.5% in New Jersey. Non-violent crime dropped 16.9% Whatever is going on is not in Camden alone.

Camden used to have 175 open-air drug markets now they report about 25-30. It would appear that the open-air drug markets have dramatically changed and competition in the drug business has changed in Camden.

Some communities in other cities have used the "Obama" phones to deliver drugs and the need for open-air drug markets has declined.

It has been years since I was in Camden. But most communities see ebbs and flows in crime rates. Gangs have periods of aggressive competition followed by consolidation and relative peace. A new group comes forward and a new cycle of violence starts.

Camden was a terribly managed city. Having the county take over the policing probably ended some of the corruption that allowed 175 open-air drug markets to exist. Some could be Hawthorne effects.

Next Camden has torn down over 600 vacant properties. Greater police visibility and tearing down vacant dilapidated buildings is broken window reform 101.

"Camden used to have 175 open-air drug markets now they report about 25-30."
Just like most other small retailers, the Internet has killed this business.

Note that the "Obama phones" would better be labeled "Reagan/Bush phones," since the program was begun in 1984 and expanded to cell phones under the George W. Bush administration.

Yet many on the street using them call them Obama phones

Ahhh yes the laptop sociologist will teach us about drug dealing. Obama phones? Seems kind of strange for a full time drug dealer making deliveries to be using a slip phone with limited minutes and texts when less than $100 will get you up and running with a decent Smart phone from Wal-Mart.

Please look up Safelink Wireless, Assurance Wireless, and Reachout Wireless to start

Your attack on me shows your ignorance and I assure you it is a common practice for many in some cities

Naaa, I'm not looking up shit. Unless you want to tell me Safelink and company have web pages that say:
"Hey Drug Dealers, sign up for Obama phones to help run a mobile drug business" But then you don't.

You made the assertion about the business practices of drug dealers. I don't have to refute you, you have to show us how you come by this information and how we can verify it. Cite your sources or be dismissed.

And Opiate containers don't contain instructions on how to resell at a profit. What does that prove?

I have numerous friends and family who work in law enforcement. At the request of the Dean of an MBA program, I agreed to co-teach a class in a maximum security prison. The business of drug dealing was a topic that came up. I have taught it about 7 times over the years.

Most drug dealers make very little money. Same with street prostitutes. They do things on the cheap and often stupid. The "Obama" phones are just commodities that get traded around and are frequently used.

From your first link:
People can buy them for as low as $10 at many common retailers and can pay to add minutes to them. Rider said he was not aware of any efforts to ban prepaid phones and said plenty of people use them legitimately.

So drug dealer buy cheap prepaid phones they get from local shops. So much for Obama phones.

Your second article, is about drug dealing in the UK!

Two time loser. You had a score of zero when I demanded sources and instead you provide sources that actually argue against your case.

Now I'll be nice to you. I'll forget the second failure since the UK tells us nothing about Obama phones.

The article you cited on cell phone use was from 2014, almost half a decade old. Sad, but if anything Obama phones would have probably been more relevant then than now so since they don't even merit a mention in the article, that's pretty pathetic on your part.

More important, the article indicates that cheap prepaid burner phones could be loaded for as little as $10. This indicates why Obama phones were probably never a big deal here. While Obama phones might be free to people on Medicaid, they probably aren't very fast to get and replace. While drug dealers mostly don't make a lot of money, $10 is easily made in a single transaction and if you have to go thru phones and prepaids often, that isn't a huge deal.

"I have numerous friends and family who work in law enforcement. At the request of the Dean of an MBA program, I agreed to co-teach a class in a maximum security prison. "

You cite this as though it's a testimony to your expert knowledge, I suspect it may be more because this assignment is one the good teachers wanted to skip. Regardless what does it have to do with anything? Were you assigned to teach an MBA class on drug dealing to max-security inmates?

Now of course I'm sure somewhere sometimes a drug dealer has used an Obama phone. I'm also sure on the few occasions when they needed to wear a tie, they might have brought one from Trump's collection that he used to hawk at Macy's. Neither rabbit hole seems very helpful to go down in an academic discussion of crime and law enforcement. I didn't raise the ties but you did the Obama phones, and you're collecting a paycheck from an academic institution! Wow.

I will admit that it is not a topic widely studied.

The "Obama" phones are widely used to aid in drug transactions. By buyers and sellers. It seems that you object to the use of the term "Obama" phones but freely admit the use of cellphones. The "Obama" phones contributed but are not the only source.

Some dealers also will have other people open cellphone accounts and then trade the phone over to the dealer to use, said Jeff Orr, Trumbull-Ashtabula Group Task Force commander.

"And others use a regular cellphone plan with a smartphone, said Mansfield police Chief Ken Coontz, who leads the METRICH Enforcement Unit, which covers nine counties north of Columbus.

Company privacy policies have made it more difficult for law enforcement to get information from a suspect's phone, even with a warrant, Coontz said. Often, authorities need the phone owner's security code or password to get into the phone, he said."

I am told that these are often "Obama" phones.

It was not an MBA class moron. I was asked if I was willing to work with inmates trying to earn college credit. On occasion, I agreed to help out. The inmates bring up the drug dealing from time to time. The only time I ever brought it up was in relation to the Freakonomics chapter about if you make so much money drug dealing why do you live with your mother. As a matter of fact, most for most of the students I taught drug dealing was a secondary crime to some violent crime. But they are often gang members and gangs use drugs to make money.

The "Obama" phones are commodities that are freely traded on the street. Drug addicts will beg, borrow or steal whatever they have or can obtain. In some communities, they added to the problem. Many drug dealers are addicts trying to sell enough to support a habit. Rather small operators on average. They get the phones and use them. Not really rocket science here.

Lord you are stupid.

"By buyers and sellers. It seems that you object to the use of the term "Obama" phones but freely admit the use of cellphones. "

I don't object to the term, actually. I object to you speaking out of your ass. Then providing bad sources. And now mixing your own words in with quotes from your source. This from someone who claims to teach at an academic institution!

Your source, again, counters your thesis.

From your own source:
1. Drug dealers want disposable phones.
2. Drug dealers mostly use phones paid for in cash thereby leaving no record of incoming/outgoing calls that could be tied to an individual (this wouldn't be the case with grandma's 'Obama phone')
3. Larger dealers carry up to half a dozen phones at a time, those they trust will switch to one of the other numbers when the dealer stops answering one. Even with a large family one would suspect such a business model would quickly exhaust "Obama phones" carried by uncles, aunts, grandparents etc.
4"And others use a regular cellphone plan with a smartphone..." except half a decade ago, when your source was written, "Obama phones" were basic phone affairs with just voice and text capacity....and often a limited ration of minutes and texts each month! Not very helpful for running a delivery business.
5. The fact that your source neglected to even mention Obama phones as a source of supply.

That's pretty damming. Your theory, recall, was that many drug dealers are poor and make little money from drugs hence an 'Obama phone' would be a great way to score free capital. Yet your source neglects to say anything about this. No questioning if the program could be tightened up or stopped. No plea to seniors and others not to let other people have their 'Obama phones'. But there is mulling over retailers selling prepaid phones, the ability to subpoena information from anonymous prepaid accounts versus regular accounts etc.

"But they are often gang members and gangs use drugs to make money."
Another problem, phones in poor communities can often act as status symbols, much like higher end clothes, jackets, sneakers etc. While better housing and even good cars are out of reach with a low income, even min. wage can allow you to sink a few paychecks into a phone that is halfway decent. Ironically the fact that you don't have a lot of income going on actually makes your theory less likely rather than more.

"The "Obama" phones contributed but are not the only source."

Your original comment

"Some communities in other cities have used the "Obama" phones to deliver drugs and the need for open-air drug markets has declined."

Clearly you originally painted 'Obama phones' as some sort of key mechanism for the shift from open air drug markets to delivery based ones. But how you know about the causal dynamics of shifting drug markets is a bit unclear since you now say the area is 'unstudied'.

Hence you fall back on some pathetic cover your ass 'contributed' line which means if there was but only one single guy who once used an Obama phone to do a drug deal you are vindicated. Sad. I guess you could just as easily say trees 'contributed' to it because they make oxygen which is breathed by both drug buyers and sellers.

Ok. Cellphones are used but “Obama” phones are in a saintly category that are used only in the most extreme cases. And drug runners who make the equivalent of minimum wage go through hundreds of phones a year by your count but are afraid to use Obama phones. Yeah that is how it works.
Next police departments that allow 175 open-air drug markets really crack down if they use Obama phones. Then they go all out to target these criminals. Drug runners who will risk face to face deals are terrified of police getting warrants for their phones.

I went to the prison today. Went to a class of 30 inmates. Asked for a show of hands if they had ever heard of an Obama phone. They all raised their hands. After some jokes and questions about me thinking about getting one, complaints about limits on minutes etc. I asked if they knew, personally, if they are used for drug deals. 23 responded yes, then said why they wouldn’t, or precautions taken, preferences etc. perhaps they lied. Maybe the phones come with a warning that you can’t use for criminal purposes.
Are most Obama phones used in criminal activity. Probably not. Are Obama phones used in criminal activity? Without a doubt.

I will stand corrected that I have no proof of what percentage of the drug trade (and prostitution) is done with Obama phones. They clearly are used, according to the students it is non-trivial but far from the majority.

One example I was given is that you have a regular customer call, talk in code, set time place, make deal. In addition on the demand side the students joked that a “fair” number of buyers have Obama phones. And they don’t care what kind of phone it is. Who owns it. Etc

You concentrate your comments on the supply side and ignore the demand side that is needed to make the new marketplace work.

"Ok. Cellphones are used but “Obama” phones are in a saintly category that are used only in the most extreme cases. And drug runners who make the equivalent of minimum wage go through hundreds of phones a year by your count but are afraid to use Obama phones."

New theory: Drug markets were once open aired, but drug dealers used cell phones that had funny custom ring tones to shift the business model to a delivery one.

What, don't buy it? Well here's an article that says drug dealers use phones that ring.

Ohhh yea the article doesn't say the phones had funny ring tunes, but why wouldn't drug dealers, using phones that ring, also use phones with ring tunes.

Ohhh I went to a prison tonight and asked some guys doing time for drugs if they ever heard of ring tunes, many raised their hands and then I asked would they have any reason not to use a phone with a funny ring tune in dealing with drugs? They shrugged and said why not.

You clearly must be crazy and a bit unhinged to doubt my well documented ring tune drug dealer theory. I mean it must be true as the only way to actually doubt it would be to prove that funny ring tune phones had some type of magic repulsive power towards drug garlic to vampires.

Btw, to further support my theory that drug dealers used phones with funny ring tunes, here's an article from National Geographic from 1910 about tribes that use smoke signals to communicate. Back off man, I'm academic!

My mistake. You are an idiiot

You are right Obama phones are special, and you are an expert on the topic. Bless your heart.

Btw check your meds

You are resorting now to a straw man. I'm not saying Obama phones are special In fact from the evidence YOU! presented they are remarkably not special at all. It's so easy to debate something with a person so adapt at the art of the 'own goal'.

Comparing crime in the City of Camden and Camden County doesn't seem a fair comparison (the City is directly across the river from Philadelphia while the county stretches southeast away from Philadelphia). But I will leave that to the folks who reside there. I will point out that the population of the City is about 78,000 (predominantly African Americans and Puerto Ricans) while the population of the county is about 510,000 (over 65% white and less than 20% African American), with the population highly dense in the City and spread out across the county. The per capita income in the City is less than $10,000 (with a median household income of about $27,000), while the per capita income in the county is more than $22,000 (with a median household income of over $66,000).

Cops are expensive. The folks buying the cops are not the one necessarily getting murdered. and they eventually quit buying so many cops. The cycle repeats. It is hard to get the whole county to keep concerned about 11,000 poor people crammed into one spot.

The Daniel Bier link doesn't work for me (it's a link to Facebook), but the charts may be comparing crime, etc. solely within the City of Camden after consolidation with crime in the City before consolidation. My first comment assumed a comparison of the City of Camden before consolidation with the entire County of Camden after consolidation. It's certainly possible that the County maintains separate crime data for the City. Maybe Tabarrok knows the answer.

A quick look at FBI data for cities in New Jersey shows that the crime rates in most of the state followed a similar pattern. In fact, the drop (indexed to 2000 - data through 2014) shows larger drops in the rest of the state than in Camden. Further, since the graphs do not start at 0, the decrease is visually exaggerated. I question whether this "evidence" is evidence of anything at all.

Over the four years running from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2017, there was a median of 33 homicides in Camden. The median over the period running from 2010-13 was 52.

See the Disaster Center's data. The homicide rate in New Jersey as a whole was the unchanged between those two periods. Contrast with Newark. The annual number of homicides bounced around 95 during 2010-13 and stood at 96 during 2014-17. Newark has seen drops the last two years, which is good, but you do get year-to=year flux so you should be cautious.

I find police priorities a little baffling. My city built a sort of rec center for the homeless, downtown - a block off our "entertainment" district - that was supposed to provide services of some sort and can sleep a couple hundred people (there was and is already a Salvation Army shelter nearby, but its evangelizing mission was not considered best practices, I guess).

So you have the homeless congregating there amid the hotels and the tourists hitting the increasingly seedy shot bars (which generate their own weekend shootings) or in town for various big events, while a concerted effort has also been made to draw people into "downtown living" in fancy highrises, something which barely existed 20 years ago.

A hundred homeless people are standing in front of this facility at any given moment. This makes them a target for bad people, often from the big city a couple hours away, to come along and sell them these newfangled cheap drugs of uncertain formulation, which routinely result in news reports that "3 dozen homeless people had to be taken to the emergency room today." There are assaults and fights and disorderliness, and all the usual kvetching about nuisance from downtown business owners.

What I don't understand is, why not station a policeman outside the facility 24/7? Just as a prophylactic, benevolent presence? Take it in turns. One time a city councilwoman proposed just that, so they did a trial for a few weeks, and it was declared a success - did indeed reduce all these incidents, but after the trial ended they declined to continue, saying they hadn't the funding. It was the one thing that was just impossible, apparently.

Did I mention that the city police station is directly *next door* to the homeless center? And that our per capita police spending is much higher than other, and bigger, cities in our state?

I would consider a deep dive on incentives here.

The case of Eric Garner in NYC is interesting to examine. Garner was a 'street character' who in an earlier age of policing probably wouldn't have been hassled, even valued as a pseudo-ally. In fact the day he died he had previously broken up and stopped a fight on the street he was hanging on. The cops, though, were under pressure to make numerous 'quality of life' arrests hence the attempt to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes that ended up with him dead.

A decent theory can stop working if you push it too hard. The 'broken window' argument said don't ignore people doing unsocial but minor things. But push that too far and you end up with cops pressured to make endless quotas of BS charges each day, hassling people who aren't causing a problem in the neighborhood but are easy targets because, say, they spend the day hanging out on the street.

A more professional approach recognizes that sometimes the quality of life offenses are useful tools for deterring larger crimes and other times they should be tolerated in order to concentrate on more serious issues.

I'm not really suggesting that tickets be issued to mentally ill vagrants; there's little point in that. Just a peace officer to keep the peace. Having invited a bunch of vulnerable, mentally ill, often-addicted people to gather in this one spot (there's actually a second problem-creating locus, but it's some miles away and wholly the work of a single church, so nothing can be done about that) ought we not babysit them? Am I crazy for wondering why it should be so easy to deal dangerous drugs at the homeless resource center 30 feet from police headquarters?

Well that was kind of the issue. In an earlier age Garner wouldn't have been hassled as much because he was helpful. A guy who breaks up a fight (granted because it's bad for his illegal cigarette hustle) adds to the peace. Under a foolish 'broken window' quota policy, though, making arrests for illegal cigarette sales while ignoring fights focuses on trees while ignoring the forest.

I suspect the problem you are identifying is likely coming from the incentives. Someone is not looking at the big picture and instead tallies up 'transactions' as success and a holistic approach as a drain. You clearly see lowering crime around the homeless shelter is a win cross the board. The homeless are more willing to get help, the help is more centralized making it easier for it to make long run progress, business overall is improved because tourists are less hassled etc.

Does your chief of police work for the mayor?

He works for the city manager, I suppose, though we were without a city manager for a couple years and our mayor was clearly not eager to fill the position. He would like to be a strong mayor, I expect. There is a feeling in town that some of our problems are connected to our mayor's whims, his likes and dislikes. He appears to very much like the sight of homeless people*, whose numbers have exploded during his tenure without comment from him, while the numbers of scooters on the street, or the exact composition of buildings and complicated formula of "affordable housing" units on a small parcel of land, is the sort of issue that he and his council can find it worthy to debate Thursday after Thursday without resolution.

*In that, he is probably representative of his constituents, though, so I can't hold it against him.

Suggestion: If there are open public meetings every Thursday then there's almost certainly open time for the public. Don't just go yourself but get a group of people to take turns *every* Thursday raising the issue. Also raise it privately by calling/mailing each person on the council and the police chief. Demand to see why the budget cannot accommodate an officer around the shelter. There must be a homeless advocacy group in the city, get them involved too.

Apathy being what it is, it doesn't take much to be heard.

The issue boils down to this.

I will observe that our police, and some of our vocal citizens, and our city leaders - are three legs of a stool. They are constantly at odds with one another: over pay and staffing needs; over various incidents and police shootings, with the cops feeling that the city doesn't have their backs; over our stated desire to be a sanctuary city and not arrest people because that's not friendly to people here illegally. Criminals being chased in the next county flee into our jurisdiction, because of our reputation for being soft on crime.

The police tend not to even live in our city limits - this is often chalked up to "affordability" but I really think it speaks more to the divide between a liberal city and the people it reluctantly hires to enforce laws it doesn't believe in.

I would not be surprised if there is a sense among the police that, in every possible way you invited more and more homeless to your city, and we wash our hands of the result.

What is the murder clearance rate for your city? Robbery? Rape, etc.? Is it 100%? If not then why are you listening to people who say the cops are upset over your city being a 'sanctuary city' (no such thing exists)? When people park illegally do FBI agents come down and help your city write parking tickets? Have the police in your city stopped all local crime and solved all cold cases leaving them free time to enforce Federal Laws? I think not.

As you pointed out, the city isn't putting a cop out near the homeless shelter where stuff seems to erupt. If the police are upset that they aren't being used to chase illegal immigrants, why don't they have the time to do that?

Think local, don't let power brokers in your city distract you with national issues like immigration. It's very simple, you want a police presence outside the homeless shelter. The police are paid therefore they go where they are assigned to go, period.

Except that the 9th Circus of Court Jesters has declared that the police may not do anything about vagrants until the vagrants are fully subsidized by the serfs working the lands of the court jesters.

Again act local on the homeless shelter or stay in the basement and argue with zero marginal product comments on this blog.

"You can have all the homelessness you are willing to pay for." - Thomas Sowell

Good story but if you don't read closely you might think Cordero is the Metro Police Chief, and he's not. Story says only that he "was brought in to configure the new agency" and works with the police chief, but does not explain his official position or authority. If he's a consultant it should say so -- what's his pay, what's his term, who does he report to, etc.

Some neighborhoods don't need any police while others, like Camden, need many. Why? Look at the numbers.

Population density: 8.7k/sq. mile
Median income: 26k
Demographics: Hispanics - 37k, Blacks - 32k, White - 4k
Language - Spanish 38%

Stop right there. That is enough data to predict a high need for policing.

See for yourself:

"In May of 2013, however, the entire {Camden} police department was disbanded "

... big City of Columbus Ohio just abolished its longstanding police Vice Squad --- the severe level of police corruption uncovered there was far beyond any reform measures.

"Last year, the city paid $3.5 million in damages to 88 citizens who saw their convictions overturned because of planted evidence, fabricated reports, and other forms of police misconduct"

Wow that's a small number. An average of $40k for deliberate misconduct that resulted in an over turned conviction; per the link it's just $32k per year spent wrongfully in prison. If someone locked me in a prison for a year and the only recompense I got was $32k I would be livid.

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