Virtual Community Patrol
Through wireless and global positioning technology, Packetalk takes critical crime related data collected at headquarters and distributes it within seconds to live patrols. It forms a critical dynamic link between citizens on the street and the forces charged with protecting them. These "force multipliers" are proving to be a driving force in crime prevention.
The growth of the neighborhood crime watch is typically a grass roots response to an event or rise in crime. In New York, the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese outraged citizens when it was reported that eyewitnesses did not come to her aid or call police. In Boston, citizen activist Chris Hayes, began a crime watch program with a phone and a desk in 1984.
However it begins, the crime watch can be a valuable tool for the police force and a visible means of connecting law enforcement with the public. But the program has two serious drawbacks:
- It relies on personal contact, which often deters many citizens from "getting involved" or being identified.
- It usually requires a community organizer to constantly motivate the community and liaise with the police force.
The Virtual Community Patrol (VCP) is a patent pending system that combines web-based technology with video surveillance (CCTV) cameras to allow community residents to draw police attention to suspected criminal activity and quality-of-life issues with a click of a mouse.
If a citizen observes suspicious activity, he/she logs on to the web based VCP and fills in a simple form describing the event. The citizen is then presented with panoramic still images of the community to use as reference for localizing the incident. Using the mouse pointer, reporters scroll over the images and pinpoint and click on the precise location of the incident. Simultaneously, the police are alerted to the reporter's message and surveillance cameras automatically turn to the exact location indicated by the citizen. Instantly, the police observe what citizens are reporting and determine if the activity constitutes a criminal act or situation requiring police intervention. The feeds can be passed directly to police patrols in the area, giving them advance surveillance as they respond.
VCP was used with tremendous success in the high crime areas of East Orange NJ, because the citizens could report on suspicious activity while remaining anonymous to the street. It became a maddening situation for would-be criminals as they never knew who was watching or from where. Equally important, it empowered the neighborhood to work with law enforcement without fear of reprisal and significantly lowered fear-of-crime.
VCP also target hardens our communities against terrorist attacks. Citizens can be a powerful line of defense as demonstrated in recent events in New York and Texas. VCP complements Homeland Security's campaign encouraging citizens to report suspicious activity that could be related to terrorist plots to local officials. VCP adds an important element that helps transform the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign into "If You See Something, Show Us... Instantly."