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In Camden, hoping more cops means more economic growth

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Safer streets translate into increased potential for Camden's business community, says Gary Rago, director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center based at Rutgers–Camden.

That effort has received a boost as the U.S. Department of Justice announced the awarding of COPS grants, which will be distributed nationwide, at a press conference today at Camden County Police Department headquarters.

As part of the grant, the county police department will receive $2.3 million in grant money that will lead to the hiring of 10 new officers. A county spokesman said the hiring process will begin immediately.

"This allotment of federal funds will help us keep building the department and provide the capacity needed to meet our objective, which is to reduce crime and make residents feel safer," said Louis Cappelli, Camden County freeholder director, in a statement.

Rago said that crime levels and economic development directly impact one another. That includes businesses' ability to attract employees right down to investing in security infrastructure.

"Anytime you're in a high- or higher-crime area, then there are costs of doing business," Rago said.

And if a safer Camden also has the ability to bring people to the city to live, that's an added bonus for businesses.

"Lower crime also attracts and sustains residents," Rago said.

COPS offers grants to law enforcement agencies at the state, local and tribal levels that are selected based on a set of criteria including their individual crime rates, fiscal needs and community policing plans. The funds provided will be enough to cover an officer's salary and benefits for a three-year period.

Other New Jersey police departments receiving the federal grants serve Paterson, Bridgeton, Asbury Park and Westampton. Camden's grant is the largest of the five.

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