Media Coverage of Crime in Camden

Covering the incidents of crime and violence in Camden is basically a cottage industry. Local newspapers salivate over it. Good things that happen in the city might be glossed over, but there will always be coverage of the bad things that go on in the city, as if suburbanites can’t help but follow the carnage. Reading yet another article about a shooting the other day, I got really bothered by the lack of context and analyses of the root causes of that crime. The basics are mundane enough; most of the killings are drug related. That’s just Camden, right? Drugs, poverty, misery. Except drugs don’t exist in a vacuum. And there’s been increasing coverage of the fact that that drug trade is majorly supported by people coming in from outside the city, namely, White suburban kids no one apparently thinks are capable of doing something bad. Overall, it’s just part of a larger picture that I feel rarely got covered, so I wrote a guest post for Stephen Danley’s Local Knowledge blog about it. Here’s a preview and a link to the full essay.

One thing that becomes almost immediately evident when you pay attention to Camden is newspapers’ and news anchors’ obsession with crimes and crime statistics. At first glance, it seems like it makes sense. It’s a beleaguered city that suffers an exceptional amount of crime. A new police force is out to prove itself. A governor who wants to regionalize other police forces in the state needs it to succeed to push his agenda forward. And unfortunately, shocking crime sells air time and ad space.

But to focus on crime as the sole aspect of the city is to only follow half the story. Policing only attempts to address the symptom, not to fix the root cause of the problem. After all, it is no more Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson’s job to make sure Camden thrives in the 21st century than it is Chief Charles Ramsey’s job to ensure that Philadelphia succeeds economically. Their roles are merely supplemental to the success of their cities.

You can read the entire post on Stephen Danley’s blog at