It’s a dubious distinction, but the cities of Trenton and Camden are in a race of sorts to see which city will notch the most homicides in 2013, as the two Garden State metropolises moved closer to the embarrassing honor by tallying murders last weekend.
On Saturday, a man was found shot in the head on a downtown Trenton street, marking the 29th murder in the city—just two shy of the 2005 record of 31 homicides. In Camden, an 18-year-old man was found shot to death in a car on Sunday, marking the 31st murder in the city, which for the past several years has ranked as one of the most violent and dangerous places to live in the country by a national crime index study.
“I don’t leave my house at night,” said one Trenton resident. “It’s so dangerous out here that if I could afford to move away from here, I would!”
Much of the blame for Trenton’s toxic wave of violence is being hurled at embattled Mayor Tony Mack. Mack is battling some major legal issues, including federal corruption charges, and he dismissed dozens of police officers in the past few years. He has also requested financial aid from the Christie administration and has been sharply criticized by the governor, the Trenton City Council and Trentonians for failing to maintain order and control in the city and for his poor leadership.
In Camden earlier this year, the state assumed control of the public schools due to violence, low test scores and the low matriculation rates of students. Late last year, Gov. Chris Christie ordered an increase in the number of state troopers designated to patrol the most dangerous parts of the city. The city also dismissed dozens of police officers in recent years due to fiscal issues and has an unemployment rate that hovers at or near 20 percent.