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From the windows of R.C. Molina Elementary School, teacher’s aide Carla Noville could see police patrolling at Seventh and Vine streets, keeping the corner by the playground relatively free of the drug dealing that plagues this city.

Just last July, Mayor Dana Redd declared Sixth Street, a block over, a “safe corridor” that police would patrol heavily to beat back the corner drug trade.

That was before crime-ridden Camden – the poorest city in New Jersey and a byword for urban failure — cut its police force nearly in half to balance a $26 million budget deficit. After losing millions in state aid and unable to gain concessions on a union contract, the city laid off 300 employees last month, including 167 police officers and 60 firefighters.

“That’s going to be scary, without seeing them being there,” Noville says. “They are needed. Come on, how are we supposed to survive without the cops?”

Other cities in New Jersey, including Newark and Atlantic City, have laid off police to close budget gaps and to make up for cuts in state aid made by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. But no other city fired as much of its force as Camden, nor do other cities have a history as woeful as this one.

Source: Martha T. Moore for USA Today via Law Officer.

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