ROBERT E. ALLENBACH was the Chief of Police in Camden, New Jersey from 1998 through 2004. The crime rate plummeted during his tenure and the community, he was well respected in the community, but fell victim to the partisan politics that have crippled Camden for much of the past 30 years. 

Robert E. Allenbach was born in Camden and raised on Sherman Avenue in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. He attended public schools in Camden, including Veterans Memorial Junior High School, a stone's throw from his home on Sherman Avenue, and Woodrow Wilson High School where he was an All-State wrestler. After graduating from High School Robert Allenbach attended Bemidji College in Minnesota on a wrestling scholarship before enlisting in the United States Navy.

After leaving the Navy Robert Allenbach joined the Camden Police Department in 1974. His first assignment was as walking a beat in North Camden. He was in time reassigned to the patrol, narcotics and vice squads. He also was continuing his education throughout these times, eventually earning a Master's Degree from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. Robert Allenbach also graduated from the FBI Academy in 1999.

As Chief of Police Robert Allenbach was a very approachable Chief of Police, and was always out talking with the community, especially at the old Wawa convenience store located on Collings Avenue in Camden's Fairview section. The Chief was such a regular their that the store named a sandwich after him. Still a "cop's cop" even as Chief, stories are still told about him chasing down an armed suspect at the Wawa. 

Not content to be a "yes man", Chief Allenbach came into conflict with Camden's political leadership. This led to a rather ugly parting, during which time according to news reports of the day the city government tried to force a resignation via threats to the Chief's pension. Eventually things were ironed out, and Chief Allenbach retired in 1994. 


Top Cop
by Daniel Murphy

Robert E. Allenbach ’95, Camden’s chief of police, is laying down the law in one of the country’s most crime-ridden cities. Since Allenbach took command in 1998, Camden’s homicide rate has dropped from a high of 64 in one year to seven for the first six months of
this year. In addition, the average police response time has dropped from 33 minutes to eight. Allenbach has also increased police presence on the streets and reinstated many crime prevention programs like the Multi-Agency Life Line project which identifies and helps troubled youths before they become career criminals.

The former detective and undercover officer has no regrets about accepting the challenge of revitalizing Camden’s police department. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it so far,” said Allenbach. “I get to attend community meetings, work with community leaders, and in my opinion, lead the best police department in the nation.”

Allenbach started his college career at Rowan in 1966 but put it on hold to join the military. After joining the Camden police force in 1974 he returned to school—only to be placed on undercover assignment for seven years. He then put his educational plans on hold again to
raise a family with his wife, Mary. He resumed his studies part time in the late eighties and completed a degree in law and justice studies in 1995.

Although Allenbach reviews major investigations and cases, his responsibilities don’t include investigative work. He mostly focuses on managing the day-today operations, personnel and budgetary needs of the department. Evening hours usually include meetings with civilian
organizations, neighborhood watch groups and community leaders.

He considers the redeployment of his officers into staggered shifts the most successful
and important change he’s made. Now more than 100 officers are on the streets at the times the city receives the most calls for assistance. “Overlapping the shifts gives our officers a higher profile on the street and more time to do proactive and community-oriented police work,” said
Allenbach. “Instead of just reacting to problems they can now work to prevent them.”

Allenbach is also combating crime with a multi-agency initiative funded by the federal
government. “We’ve joined forces with the FBI, the prosecutor’s office, the sheriff’s department, the state police and the county police,” said Allenbach. “Pooling our manpower, resources and equipment allows us to better target Camden’s drug sets and enables the government to prosecute a vast majority of the criminals with stricter federal charges.”

In addition to his initiatives on the street, Allenbach’s making changes in the department. He recently completed a $1.5 million state-of-the-art upgrade to the department’s communications center, replaced older patrol cars with new ones and replaced the old typewriters on his detectives’ desks with new computers— all of which has boosted his department’s morale, brought praise from politicians and won the support and confidence of Camden’s residents.

While Allenbach is pleased with his department’s progress, he hopes the city will make a complete comeback. Until then, he continues to work with City Hall and county officials to rebuild and modernize the Police Department. “I get a lot of compliments from both civilians
and politicians,” said Allenbach. “I can’t go anywhere in Camden without someone coming up to me, shaking my hand and saying, ‘Thanks, Chief—we can see a difference.’”