"I don't feel safe in Camden anyway," he said.
The way he sees it, no number of officers can make the city secure as long as they are not required to live in the city, indicating they have a real stake in keeping it safe. There have been 33 murders so far this year in the city of nearly 80,000 residents.
Camden's police chief insists that the protection offered by his department won't drop, even if he's forced to slash staffing. Police officers and their unions argue that eliminating police jobs will increase crime.
Perpetually high-crime Camden could become the ultimate test of how much police matter.
Camden has sent the state's Civil Service Commission a plan for laying off municipal workers across the city but has not made the details public. They could take effect as soon as mid-January.
Mayor Dana Redd says there will be fewer layoffs than she told reporters last month. She had called for laying off 225 members of the 375-member police force, including dispatchers and civilian staff.
Layoffs are certain to happen, but exactly how many depends what kind of concessions unions are willing to make and exactly how much aid Camden gets from the state.
The city was atop the controversial rankings of the nation's most dangerous cities last year, as it often is. It would be no surprise to see it among the most dangerous again when the latest rankings, by CQ Press, are released Monday, although crime in most categories was down significantly in 2009 from the previous year.
The city, long abandoned by large factories, hardly has any tax base, so it relies heavily on state aid. And that aid has been cut deeply amid a state budget crisis being addressed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is emphasizing shared sacrifice.
In the past, Camden was one of nine New Jersey cities eligible to share $750 million in special aid from the state. This year, it must compete with 24 other cities for a portion of $250 million.
In this economy, many cities and towns are facing similar problems. Police, usually among the last to be touched by layoffs, are getting pink slips in cities across the country. Some of the steepest layoffs came in Flint, Mich., East St. Louis, Ill., and Oakland, Calif., all places with chronic crime problems.
Other high-crime New Jersey cities are facing conundrums. In Trenton, the mayor canceled layoffs of police officers and other city workers this month, concerned that doing so would have put the city at risk. Officials in Newark are trying to move ahead with staff reductions, though a judge ruled last week that they would be delayed to give more time for unions to make concessions.
Even communities with relatively low crime rates are cutting police staffs. Cherry Hill, Camden's well-off neighbor, laid off a half-dozen officers earlier this year.
Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson says that when layoffs come, he will realign his force in ways that the public won't notice.
"The Camden Police Department will not abandon its community policing philosophy," Thomson said. "We will maintain our forward-leaning position against violent crime."
Thomson has not said how a reorganization may look, other than that the new structure will not reduce the number of officers on the street. Possible ways to do that include skipping some kinds of calls, such as fender-benders. Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said his office could take on more of the city's detective work if city detectives are moved to patrols.
Faulk said a 2009 police restructuring that added patrols is partly responsible for a decline of crime in the city.
"I am fearing these layoffs," he said. "I hope we can continue to control this situation, but it's extremely difficult."
Union officials don't buy that cuts could be made without compromising public safety.
"If you look at basic physics, the more boots you have on the ground, the more ground you can cover," said John Williamson, president of the local of the Fraternal Order of Police that represents the city's patrol officers. "You may be able to cover the same amount of ground, at some point, something's going to suffer. You can't say you're going to reduce the numbers and nothing's going to suffer."
Experts differ on what could happen with so many fewer officers - and studies offer conflicting possibilities.
An experiment conducted in the 1970s in Kansas City, Mo., eliminated patrols in some neighborhoods and doubled them in others. But crime rates didn't change.
Some experts say the more pertinent studies are ones that found some types of crimes fell as cities used federal grants to add officers in the 1990s.
Paul Heaton, an economist at the RAND Corp. think tank, said he expects the opposite to happen as cities cut their police forces.
According to a RAND formula based on what's happened when police forces change size, laying off 150 officers in Camden could result in 13 more murders per year and spikes in assaults and robberies.
Jeremy Wilson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University, said layoffs can hurt a police force for years to come. Younger officers are likely to lose their jobs - and that could create a void of future leaders. Faulk said all officers with up to a decade of experience are at risk in Camden.
But, Wilson said, police chiefs can make priorities so that the public isn't hurt as much in the short-term.
"It's all about internal resource allocation," he said. "The idea is to be smart about it and to cut in the areas that will have the least amount of impact."