Monday, November 22, 2004

Camden, Oh Camden

The AP reports that my birthplace, Camden, New Jersey, has been named America's most dangerous city. It's about time.

For years throughout the '80s and '90s, Camden was routinely named America's "worst city" by, I think, U.S. News, or some such magazine. Camden has had three of its mayors indicted in the last 10 years.

You have to laugh at Camden, because otherwise you'd cry. I remember seeing pictures of Camden from the '40s when it was a beautiful, shining town, nestled on the Delaware river across from center city Philadelphia. And if you drive through Camden today, you can still see echoes of the past in the architecture of detailing on old brownstones and brick townhouses.

I've always thought that Camden would be the perfect laboratory for a government that wanted to fix inner-city blight. It has all the afflications of Compton or Detroit, but it's small enough to manage. If someone in either New Jersey or the federal government was serious about figuring out how to rescue America's inner cities, they would start with Camden and try every tool in the box--empowerment zones, school vouchers, broken-windows policing, faith-based community outreach--to see what works.

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