After transforming Camden to livable place, Police Chief set to retire

CAMDEN, N.J. (WPVI) -- After serving the city and county of Camden for 25 years, Police Chief Scott Thomson is set to retire at the end of August.

"It's bittersweet, it's gonna be an emotional time for me," said Thomson.

For decades, Camden was one of the most dangerous, violent cities in America. Always in the top ten list for crime and sometimes leading the list as the number one worse city.

"You remember there were points in time where kids could not even play in front of their homes, people couldn't walk to the corner store, and that's changed," said Thomson.

Thomson has been nationally lauded for Camden's dramatic drop in crime, Since 2012, which is considered the high water mark of violent crime, murders are down 67 percent, robberies are down 53 percent and aggravated assaults are down 31 percent.

The Chief says, "We didn't achieve this by militarizing neighborhoods. The key component of our police operations was to have human contact, build trust and empower the people to reclaim their neighborhoods."

Camden Police are often seen out hosting neighborhood block parties and BBQ's or handing out free ice cream during the summer.

"And that was the transformation by a police officer recognizing that they were guardians and not warriors," said Thomson.

Sister Helen Cole of Guadalupe Family Services says Thomson invested heavily in transforming neighborhoods - often dubbed, 'the Heroin Highway of open-air drug sales and violence' to livable places with flowers in front of homes, where kids can play and people feel safe outside.

"It's a neighborhood now and I've been here 28 years. So I'm really happy to be a part of the transformation and to be a witness to really all the hard work the Chief did and all the police department," said Sister Cole.

And how do residents feel about the transformation?

"In the old days, I would not be able to stand here. Nope, not all day, nope," said Jesus Hernandez.

Christine McNeill said, "They cleaned Camden up good. And then the kids, they help people plant flowers and everything, they cleaned Camden up a whole lot."

And 14-year-old Semaj Bethea said, "It's good, now I can just focus on my sports, stay in school and do me."

Thomson says after retirement, he will continue working with organizations helping Camden's youth succeed as well as work with national law enforcement organizations.

Assistant Chief Joseph Wysocki will assume command of the Department upon Thomson's retirement.
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