March 24, 2011- Officials of the heavily Democratic region of Camden County heard a proposal behind closed doors by Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney on Wednesday about regionalizing public safety services.
Sweeney, a former Gloucester County freeholder, has pushed for a law that would require New Jersey's 566 municipalities to enter into shared-service agreements when they are feasible or risk losing state aid.
Citing the two percent tax hike cap as well as skyrocketing pension and health benefit costs, Christie and Sweeney said the time for local police departments was nearing its end.
Camden County is pushing for a transition that could bring the beginnings of a countywide force in four to six weeks, Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said.
The most enthusiastic endorsement for the plan appears to have come from North Jersey. Newark Mayor Cory Booker earlier this month said he hoped Camden County would move to regional policing so other counties would feel confident in doing the same.
Camden Mayor Dana Redd has been vocal in her support of pursuing a regionalized police force as a long-term solution to the city's problems. Christie recently helped Redd receive funding to bring back 50 officers.
An Associated Press report on Businessweek.com said crime — and particularly shootings — have been up in Camden this year. County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said he believes the "bad guys" are emboldened, partly because there are fewer police and fewer police cars parked in trouble spots. Now, he said, drug dealers keep their guns closer at hand — and are quicker to fire.
According to philly.com, the idea of a merged police force has received some resistance from suburban towns concerned that officers would be forced to focus on Camden.