President Barack Obama is poised to make a return visit to South Jersey next week.
Obama will visit Camden on Monday to meet with law enforcement officers and young people, and hear how the Camden County Police Department works to force relationships with the community, the White House said Thursday.
The county force was established in May 2013 as a replacement for the Camden City Police Department, which was disbanded. The county-run force has nearly 400 officers and has been credited with reductions in most violent and nonviolent crimes in the city, which had been labeled the nation’s most dangerous multiple times.
The county force has earned praise for its officers’ community outreach and interaction with the city’s predominantly minority residents. Earlier this year, Camden County Chief Scott Thomson provided testimony about the force’s community policing efforts in a White House task force report on police reform undertaken in the wake of the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York.
Gov. Chris Christie, who is considering whether to run for president next year, has called the regional force a model for cities across the nation.
“In a city suffering from epidemic crime, we acted boldly,” Christie said during his State of the State speech in January. “We terminated the city Police Department and, partnering with the county, put a new metro division on the streets with 400 officers for the same price we were paying for 260. The results? Murder down 51 percent. Firearm assaults down by one-third. All violent crime down 22 percent. Police are working with neighborhood groups to bring calm and peace across the city.”
During his visit, Obama also is expected to discuss the city’s recent designation as a “Promise Zone,” a program that provides federal grants to increase economic opportunity, reduce crime and improve public health.
The trip will be Obama’s first to New Jersey since December, when he flew from Washington to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and spoke to a large assembly of troops about their contributions and the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.
The Camden County Police Department announced the visit on a message on Twitter that read: “Honored to welcome Pres. Barack Obama to Camden next Monday, where he will visit our community and officers.”
The announcement of Obama’s visit drew praise from area lawmakers, including 1st District Rep. Donald Norcross, a Democrat who lives in the city.
“We are honored that President Obama will visit Camden and witness the remarkable transformation our city is undergoing,” Norcross said in an emailed statement. “The new county police force and its focus on community engagement is making the city safer and leading to exciting new investments that will boost our economy. Most recently, the president showed his support for these efforts by naming the city a federal ‘Promise Zone,’ and I look forward to personally thanking him for sharing in our vision for Camden and South Jersey.”
Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, said Obama’s visit “underscores the importance of continuing the dialogue between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they are charged to serve and protect.”
“I am proud that President Obama is taking a hands-on approach in this matter by personally engaging local police and the community,” Singleton said.