Newark, New Jersey is the latest big city to implement a live stream video surveillance system to monitor specific neighborhoods for criminal activity. With the goal of lowering Newark’s high crime rate by deterring, stopping, or solving crimes, Newark police installed over 60 cameras throughout the city as part of the new video surveillance system. Most of the cameras are stationery and cover intersections, although some cameras do monitor businesses and homes.
The “Citizen Virtual Patrol Program” gives the public internet access to live footage of dozens of police surveillance cameras, thus creating an online town watch. Police encourage the public to call in anonymous tips if they see suspicious activity on the livestreaming videos.
Civil liberties advocates have been critical of livestreaming police surveillance systems, pointing out that they can worsen the problem of racial profiling, when an individual is targeted by the police on suspicion of criminal activity based on the individual’s color, race, or ethnicity.
Newark was the subject of a recent Justice Department investigation that concluded the city’s police officers had engaged in a pattern of misconduct, including unconstitutional arrests, use of excessive force, and stops that disproportionally affected minorities.
Criminal justice experts fear the Citizen Virtual Patrol Program may result in a criminalization of everyday life, as individuals are treated like outlaws in their own communities. With police investigating reports of suspected criminal activity involving certain racial groups at higher rates, harassment becomes a legitimate concern.
Registered individuals will have access to the video surveillance in “real time,” which presents another problem if citizens feel empowered to take the law into their own hands. The Trayvon Martin case in Florida, where a neighborhood watch coordinator shot and killed a young black male he claimed to be a safety threat, is a reminder of the real risks involved with vigilantism.
Other critics of similar citizen virtual patrol programs highlight privacy concerns, as the public obtains the ability to collect data on the movements and interactions of their neighbors. The ability to track the patterns of a person could actually make individuals more vulnerable to crime.
If you have been the victim of racial profiling or other civil rights violation in New Jersey, the experienced South Jersey civil rights lawyers at Williams Cedar are here to help. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly represent clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide. To schedule a confidential consultation today, call us at 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777 or contact us online.