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Newark's Novel but Frightening Crime-Fighting Scheme

May 11, 2018 in Economics

By Matthew Feeney

Matthew Feeney

Officials in Newark, N.J., have come up with a
novel and frightening
crime-reduction scheme: outsourcing
surveillance to anyone with an Internet connection.


Citizen Virtual Patrol
allows the public to watch the
livestreams of dozens of surveillance cameras across the city. If
Newark’s mayor gets his way, these cameras will be the first of
several hundred. These cameras are unlikely to reduce crime. What’s
more likely is that they will establish a neighborhood panopticon
manned by nosy residents thrilled at the prospect of being
informants or vigilantes.

These residents, who aren’t trained law enforcement officials,
should be kept far away from spy cameras.

Newark officials and
residents want to live in a city with less violent crime, but
allowing citizens to act as vigilantes and to snoop on one another
is one proposal where the potential costs far outweigh the
potential benefits.

It’s highly unlikely that someone casually browsing the Citizen
Virtual Patrol website will witness a serious crime in progress.
However, that doesn’t mean that private citizens looking through
these surveillance feeds won’t convince themselves that they’re
watching potential criminals. If Citizen Virtual Patrol is fully
implemented, we should be prepared for police to receive baseless
calls about “suspicious” individuals who are in fact law-abiding

Airbnb guests
,
Ivy league professors
, or (ironically)
police officers
. Worse, residents could use Citizen Virtual
Patrol as a tool for vigilantism, opting to handle suspected
criminals by themselves rather than call law enforcement.

There is also the potential for these cameras to regularly
record behavior that is legal but perhaps sensitive or not to
everyone’s liking. At least one of the Citizen Virtual Patrol
cameras is right next to a mosque. Two are just outside a hospital.
If the program expands, expect these surveillance cameras to keep a
watchful eye over strip clubs, churches, Planned Parenthood
centers, liquor stores, and Alcoholics Anonymous meeting
venues.

Those who regularly visit these sites may reconsider doing so if
they know they’re under the constant gaze of prying neighbors and
judgmental busybodies around the world. It’s true that a passerby
on the street could recognize anyone walking into a mosque or an
Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but the constant surveillance Citizen
Virtual Patrol makes possible would allow the curious among us to
determine revealing patterns of behavior.

Even those who don’t want to identify Muslims and alcoholics or
keep an eye out for crimes in progress could use Citizen Virtual
Patrol for nefarious ends. Possessive spouses, as well as stalkers,
could use the service to keep an eye on their targets. Criminals
could also use the service, using it to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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