The Citizen Virtual Patrol is a programme that aims to involve the general public in surveillance work. The wish of the authorities is for the general public to report crimes they see and collaborate with police investigations.
The programme began in April 2018 with the installation of 62 video surveillance cameras that anyone can see in real time as long as they subscribe via social networks.
The areas monitored by cameras are places where there is a lot of people movement and all these areas have access to the Citizen Virtual Patrol warning. In June over 1,600 people had already subscribed to the website to be able to see the city of Newark’s cameras online.
Relations between the police force and the public in the city of Newark are not devoid of conflict and the police hope that this project can help to improve police-citizen relations. Police abuse in Newark is not reported according to an investigation initiated in 2011 by the federal authorities. Also, there are more identifications, arrests and searches involving minorities as opposed to whites and, in many cases, without any justification whatsoever.
About 100 additional cameras are expected to complement the initial 62. In addition, the creation of an APP is expected so that videos can be seen via Smart phones. Indeed, police chiefs are already discussing requests for cameras from community members in areas that still do not have video surveillance.
The project has not been slow in sparking controversy and there are human-rights defending people and organisations that openly criticise “big brother” where members of the community are required to keep an eye on each other. This surveillance could, according to critics, help actual offenders and thieves as they will know where people are when they want to offend or steal.