"This is a daily occurrence," Public Works Director Pat Keating said.
Keating said that while Robert Johnson Park, in the Liberty Park section, had been hit hardest, many city parks had gone dark because of metal thieves. Within the last year, Staley Park, Farnham Park, and Dudley Grange Park have been victims of copper-wire vandalism.
Elsewhere in the city, whole blocks are blacked out and school buildings are stripped of air-conditioning units.
"Every piece of wire is being stolen. Every piece of metal is being stolen," Keating said.
Only Farnham Park has been relighted as part of a city effort at the start of the year in the Parkside neighborhood. The city has been working with PSE&G and local agencies, including the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, to replace 10 to 20 lightposts at a time.
"We are making them less prone to theft," city spokesman Robert Corrales said. "We want to make sure our city is lit up again."
Camden's Peace on the Street, sponsored by Power 99, was supposed to be part of a three-city tour, including Philadelphia and Chester.
The station's website promotes the event as a party to "promote peace and community on the streets in and around Philly," with live entertainment and DJs.
Since Memorial Day weekend, 15 people have been killed in Camden, bringing the total for the year to 33. Seven people have been killed in July, including two teenagers: Jovan Aponte, 19, and Reynaldo Morales, 17.
Whether the station is equipped to hold the event at a park stripped of electricity is unknown. Power 99 spokeswoman Loraine Ballard said Monday she had too little information to comment.
The Camden school board will likely foot the bill for the event's generators and porta-potties, White said.
"The city doesn't have the money," he said, but the school board still needs to approve the expenses.
The city will provide police and public works staffing, Corrales said.
The peace party also will have vendors from various nonprofit organizations handing out information on AIDS, mental health and other social agencies, White said.
Around the region, metal scavenging has affected transit agencies, power utilities, residential properties, sculpture grounds, cemeteries, and abandoned buildings.
The crime has become so prevalent, the FBI said last year, that it affects national security by disrupting "the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, and security and emergency services."
Earlier this year, in an attempt to curb theft, Camden tried to amend regulations governing scrap-metal dealers. The proposed changes included requiring that sellers be paid by check only, holding purchased goods for a certain number of days, and requiring dealers to give the city monthly lists of items they purchased and their source. But no action was taken after a dozen scrap dealers objected to the proposed rules.
The city still hopes to pass a revised ordinance this year, Corrales said.
Last month, City Council approved a $9,800 contract for DLB Associates, an Eatontown, N.J.-based engineering firm, to design an electric project for Robert Johnson Park.
Once the design is complete, the city will bid out the electrical work. The entire project is estimated to cost about $200,000, much of which will come from a federal grant program. The proposed cost is high because a special mechanism needs to be designed to make the power box and wires tamperproof, Keating said.
Though the work will not be finished in time for the peace rally, city officials hope to have the lights back on for the start of the Centerville Simbas Pee-Wee Football League in the fall. For the last year, Simbas coach Rasheed Pollard has had to cut practice and rearrange schedules so children are not playing in the dark, he said.
"I make it work . . . but we should have lights," he said as he looked out on the scrappy field Friday.
Contact staff writer Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917, or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," at www.philly.com/camden_flow/