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


4 thoughts on “Media Coverage of Crime in Camden

  1. nobody

    What you are addressing here is not an issue that is limited to Camden but a national and possibly even international one.

    People in the suburbs don’t care where the things they buy are made nor do they want to see the places where they are made or even think about them. Out of sight, out of mind. This definitely stretches over into the vices that suburbanites use the city for. If they wanted people to know that they did drugs or bought hookers or anything else embarrassing and illegal, they would do those things in their suburbs. Instead, they use Camden as their dirty little secret and thus that is how not just the South Jersey suburbs but the whole country sees Camden. The country’s focus but especially that of the suburbs has always been on the use of something rather than the manufacture or even purchase of it. If say, RCA paid their emloyees dirt and was a very unfair employer and this was readily apparent, how many people would want to buy their TVs or radios or other products? Instead, they keep the workers and every part of the product making its way to their households completely out of sight out of mind. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

    Until that changes and people start focusing on the purchase of vices and the manufacturing of products they buy, this dynamic will continue to exist in the way that it currently does. The suburbs of Philadelphia (including South Jersey) even tried to give Philadelphia the same treatment but it’s pretty difficult to keep the 5th largest city in the country out of the local spotlight and treat it as secondary to your suburbs without being laughed at on a national and even international scale.

    1. Thanks for the insightful comment! I have to agree that you’re right about the vast majority of people not caring where their products come from. I’ve never seen otherwise. Caring about the effects of your consumption seems to be a pretty niche market even today. Overall there’s such a separation from what we do and how it affects the world in terms of consumption, even if it’s a direct impact on our local city or town.

      I know that as someone existentially passionate about communities, I’m an outlier when it comes to caring about places and people. If nothing else, I wish there were greater recognition of how our consumption habits affect the real world around us.

      1. nobody

        I couldn’t agree more. I personally think it’s ridiculous that nobody asks how anything they buy is made anymore or even if it’s made in this country, for example. I wish there were some kind of law in our country that at least 50% of a company’s products had to be made in the US, or maybe even some kind of incentives if a large enough company makes a legitimate commitment to making at least 75% of its products in the US.

        I also wish that food companies would have to be more transparent about how they make things, Most relevant to your post though, I wish people in our society would stop seeing it as acceptable to use places like Camden or other places with legitimate communities and neighborhoods for their own vices. It’s one thing if it’s legalized marijuana or legalized prostitution because cities have always been magnets for vice seekers, but when both are still illegal and especially when it’s hard drugs, that’s a completely different story. I think that would require a major change in our society though, where people buying vices are held just as accountable as those peddling them, and where we as a society are forced to see how our actions affect places full of people who did nothing to deserve those negative impacts.

        I feel the same way about the way our actions affect the world around us. I think that it’s our responsibility to do things as cleanly and efficiently as possible when it comes to our impacts on the environment. The funny thing is that the very auto-centric places in this country that rail the loudest against anything that takes away the dominance of Big Oil would be saved the most by things like electric cars and mass transit, as well as green technology such as solar power. If they could generate their electricity almost entirely from green technology and drive hybrid or electric cars then they could continue to have the auto-centric lifestyle they love and continue to grow like they have. They seem to lack the common-sense to understand that though.

      2. Something that’s always killed me too is that people who vehemently promote cars and car culture never talk about the hours a day they spend in traffic going to and from work. Those hours add up to hours of lost productive and millions of dollars in lost economic activity, too, which is something you’d think more conservative car-lovers would appreciate. But they’re just so transfixed on cars and driving everywhere. I think it really is a generational thing. For them, cars are freedom. For me, at least, the lack of a car is freedom. Being able to go where I want without worrying about where I’m going to park my car is liberating.

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