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Citizen Virtual Patrol

David Do Santos of the Newark Police Department is shown with the city's virtual patrol program. Citizens can alert police if they see suspicious activity but remain anonymous. Police can alert reporters with a message, and surveillance cameras can be turned on at the exact location indicated by the citizen.

Mike Caravella, Shirley Chan and Daniel Fox of Newark Department of Public Safety plan to expand the City’s surveillance system and add more than 30 cameras by the end of the year. The city of Newark has revealed that its new citizen virtual patrol program will place 60 cameras at its intersections that will display the city's streets and those who dare them, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The Newark Police Department announced Thursday its new Citizens Initiative, a pilot program that will allow access to a Web site and 50 surveillance cameras across the city and another 75 along the way.

As Newarks enhanced surveillance of its streets and made video feeds available to the public, other local governments across the country began to recognize the serious risks this type of technology poses to citizens'"privacy and civil rights and curtailed their use. Many communities in New Jersey, such as Morris Township, Fanwood, Wayne and Denville, have camera-sharing programs for homeowners and business owners that give police access to residents whose own cameras are under surveillance. Officials say ordinary people use the more than 30 cameras to help police catch criminals and forge relationships with the Newark Department of Public Safety.

According to Ambrose and Mark Di Ionno, the Newark Public Information Officer, the department has recorded many arrests and 911 calls involving virtual citizen patrols. Ambrose reminded the public that they can continue to report suspicious or criminal activities using the 24-hour Criminal Investigation Hotline at 1-800-77-NWW-GUNS (1-877-795-4867) or 1-877-NWK-TIPS (1-888-695-8477).

Citizen Virtual Patrol is a voluntary program designed to meet the evolving needs of the community and promote the city's philosophy of community-oriented policing. Virtual Community Patrol ( VCP ), a patent-pending system that combines web-based technology and video surveillance via CCTV cameras, enables community residents to alert the police on suspected criminal activity and quality of life issues at the click of a mouse.

Citizens know how to distill and share real-time alerts from police and other response centers with users nearby, so they can upload live videos and photos of every user or incident they witness. According to its website, Citizen Patrol has more than 7 million users and has attracted staff who believe that the idea of informing citizens not only discourages people from doing harm, but also provides an effective means of helping communities, such as finding a lost dog or family member.

Virtual citizen patrols allow community members to patrol their neighborhoods and help police deter criminal activity. The feed is passed on to the police, who patrol the area and pre-monitor it before responding. One technology that is not new, but which you describe as interesting, is the use of police drones.

Anyone with an email address and Internet connection can access a live video feed from a number of their surveillance cameras on the Newark Police Department website. According to the Newark Department of Public Safety, Redding is one of more than 10,000 people who can follow the Newark streets on their computer screens from anywhere in Newark, New Jersey.

Newark's open-feed cameras are designed to multiply the number of unwarranted stops by police of black and brown residents. What sets the Newarks program and other programs in New Jersey and the rest of the U.S. and around the world apart is that the cameras give access to police and citizens, says Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst at the ACLU in Washington, D.C. The Newark Police Department's new street surveillance program, Citizen Virtual Patrol, is sure to charge the bias and damage it causes.

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