From [HERE] Surveillance cameras are an inescapable fixture of the modern city [oppression by Doggy]. Law enforcement agencies have deployed vast networks to guard against terrorism and combat street crime. But in Newark, the police have taken an extraordinary step that few, if any, other departments in the country have pursued: They have opened up feeds from dozens of closed-circuit cameras to the public, asking viewers to assist the force by watching over the city and reporting anything suspicious.
The Citizen Virtual Patrol, as the program is called, has been hailed by officials as a move toward transparency in a city where a mistrust of the police runs deep, rooted in long-running claims of aggressive enforcement and racial animosity. The cameras, officials said, provide a way to recruit residents as Newark tries to shake a dogged reputation for violence and crime. “This is part of building a partnership,” said Anthony F. Ambrose, who, as public safety director, oversees the city’s police and fire operations. Since the program started about a month ago, he said, 1,600 users have signed into the website, and residents have been lobbying the department to add more cameras in their neighborhoods.
But the advent of the program has provoked alarm among civil liberties groups and privacy advocates. They argue that it opens a Pandora’s box of potentially devastating consequences for unsuspecting people and gives would-be stalkers or burglars a powerful tool for tracking their targets. They also argue that it pushes the police to rely heavily on the judgment of untrained civilians whose perception could be clouded by unconscious biases.
The newly installed cameras look out over strips of storefronts (some bustling and others seemingly dead), public housing complexes and rows of family homes.
“It’s not just Big Brother,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “There’s an infinite number of siblings here.”
‘Use It, Not Abuse It’
It is easy to spot the symptoms [caused by racism/white supremacy] of Newark’s enduring struggle with poverty and blight — blocks with crumbling buildings, crater-pocked roads and storefronts whose metal grates are pulled down well before sunset [who owns this stuff?]. Yet also visible are signs of transformation, with mushrooming development downtown and many [white] businesses moving in. Newark is even a finalist in Amazon’s prolonged municipal pageant to find a base for its second headquarters.
The city’s reputation has been clouded by years of ranking among the nation’s most violent communities. In 2013, Newark had the third-highest murder rate, with about 112 homicides, according to federal data, but last year, murders fell to a historic low, with about 70 homicides recorded.
The relationship between law enforcement and the city’s largely African-American and Latino population has been strained by long-running complaints of harsh policing tactics and racial profiling along with the memories of the deadly riots half a century ago. In 2016, the results of a lengthy federal investigation only confirmed those suspicions, finding that most of the police’s pedestrian stops were unjustified, use of force had been underreported and minorities were stopped more often than whites. The investigation led to the installation of a federal monitor and a consent decree.
The program started in April with 62 cameras placed in areas where officers are called often or locations with heavy foot traffic. Under each camera is a sign advising “This Area Is Under Video Surveillance.” Over 100 additional cameras are expected in the coming months, and eventually, the police said, the video will be accessible from a smartphone app.
A police spokeswoman said the department had received several calls from residents watching the cameras, though none have led to arrests.
“We want to give residents the opportunity to look with us,” Mr. Baraka said in an interview. “It gives the community an opportunity to be engaged in police work and create a better relationship between the police and the community.”
Civil liberties groups have challenged the use of camera networks monitored by the authorities, citing threats to privacy rights and fears that minorities will be disproportionately accused of crimes. A system monitored by the public heightens their concerns. [MORE]