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Fighting Crime With Eyes-On-The-Street™:
Alert, watchful, and resolved citizens
cooperating with law enforcement
can fight crime more effectively than
a veritable army of police acting alone. -- JG

What is Eyes-On-The-Street™?

     Eyes-On-The-Street™ is a citizen initiative designed to protect the right of citizens to live, work, travel, shop, and visit in all sections of the city without fear of criminals threatening their lives and property. It is designed to keep neighborhoods safe by using modern technology to empower and unite citizens in a voluntary and coordinated fight against crime — from the safety of their homes, without turning the city into an armed camp, and without further taxing already overburdened community resources. It is a response to escalating and increasingly brazen crime at all hours of the day and night, including home and garage break-ins, vehicle thefts, neighborhood vandalism, shootings, drug trafficking in plain sight, and other criminal activity.

     Eyes-On-The-Street™ is a public/private cooperative effort. It requires no government funding and no additional department to run the program. Because it is a voluntary program with no agency controlling individual citizens' cameras, there is no fear of “big brother watching.” It differs in no way from security surveillance now employed by businesses and organizations to discourage crime and to aid law enforcement officers when a crime investigation can be facilitated with security camera information.

     Eyes-On-The-Street™ is based on low cost ($50 to $100), free standing, motion activated cameras capable of recording several days of activity before starting over and requiring no costly installation, no computer connection, and no monthly fees to security firms. It is a community-wide crime deterrent similar to those widely used by businesses, gated communities, apartment buildings, schools, churches, and other organizations. Citizens participating in Eyes-On-The-Street™ are able to provide recorded video to police for identifying criminals, their activities, their vehicles, and their license plates. With Eyes-On-The-Street™, citizens reporting to police on suspicious activity in their neighborhoods also are able to substantiate their reports with recorded video.

     Want to help? Email your name, phone number, and how you would like to help to mailbox@jgcunited.com.

How does it work?

     1. Individual citizens and neighborhood associations join forces to monitor streets and alleys 24/7/365 with the security camera of their choice.
     2. Citizens post camera surveillance notices in windows at their homes, on their garages, and in their vehicles and/or on garden stake yard signs to ward off would-be wrongdoers. (Click here for free camera surveillance notices you can print out at home. (Printed Eyes-On-The-Street™ yard signs mounted on garden stakes for outdoor use will be made available for purchase by individuals and neighborhood associations.)
     3. If an incident occurs, the camera contents can be made available to law enforcement for identification of the person(s) and/or vehicle(s) involved in the criminal action.

Why does it work?

     Crime gravitates toward easy targets where the probability of getting caught and punished is least. Law enforcement experts repeatedly report that many of the criminal acts in Rockford are committed by Chicago crime elements who see Rockford homes and businesses as easy targets. I also have been told by more than one local political leader that the word on Chicago streets is that Rockford not only provides easy targets, but also that prosecutors and judges are soft on crime here. I have no firsthand information or any opinion on that, but it is an alarming report and I would hope some of our local journalists are looking into it. True or not, there is little wecameras as private citizens can do about it -- except at election time.

     What we can do as individual citizens is to implement the proposed citizen initiative for Eyes-On-The-Street™ community action against crime, starting in our neighborhoods. The wheels are already turning. The next step is to secure the cooperation of neighborhood associations to inform individual citizens of the options available to them -- from high end cameras mounted outside to small, inexpensive cameras that can sit on windowsills inside.

     The neighborhood initiative will be most effective if at least two homes on each block have some form of camera. Signage like the security signs you see in many yards would identify Eyes-On-The-Street™ neighborhoods to let would-be wrongdoers know they are being watched. Some public signs identifying Rockford as an Eyes-On-The-Street™ community would be helpful, also, to discourage Chicago crime elements from targeting Rockford. Signage at high traffic count entrances to the city may prove to be particularly effective in that regard. Meeting of persons who want to help are being planned.

     Alert, watchful, and resolved citizens cooperating with law enforcement can fight crime more effectively than a veritable army of police acting alone.

Questions and answers

Why will Eyes-On-The-Street™ help Rockford?
     Eyes-On-The-Street™ will help Rockford
     — because polling invariably shows that safety is the foremost concern of all citizens in all socioeconomic categories in all communities, and
     — because Rockford citizens are expressing on social media growing concern for safety on city streets and in their homes, and
     — because Rockford media frequently cite reports of crimes, gunshots, and gang activity in our community, and
     — because limited resources preclude having police officers on every street corner 24 hours a day, and
     — because those charged with law enforcement frequently cite the eyes of the citizens as a major crime deterrent, and
     — because assuring community safety is a responsibility of all citizens as well as a duty of law enforcement officers, and
     — because crime, gang activity, illegal drug trafficking, and reports of gunfire in the city diminish hopes and interfere with efforts for neighborhood and community revitalization, and
     — because increased surveillance can both deter crime and aid police in identifying and capturing criminals, and
     — because citizens need to be empowered to safely and securely fight crime in their homes and neighborhoods, and
     —because law enforcement officers need the help of law abiding citizens to do their work effectively, and
     — because fighting crime wastefully diverts limited community resources from other essential services, and
     — because covering up crime with public relations gimmicks and media manipulation is futile, and
     — because new, creative approaches are needed to confront the reality of community crime and to eradicate criminal activity here, and
     — because Eyes-On-The-Street™ serves notice to lawbreakers that their activities will not be tolerated in our community, and
     — because Eyes-On-The-Street™ serves notice that our entire community has become a veritable army of crime fighters armed with technology that will lead to swift and certain apprehension and prosecution of criminals, and
     — because Eyes-On-The-Street™ provides police and prosecutors with evidence of wrongdoing, and
     — because Eyes-On-The-Street™ enables prosecutors to expedite prosecution to remove wrongdoers from the streets.

Is it lawful to monitor your street with a security camera?
     Private citizens’ use of security cameras to deter crime long ago passed court muster vis-a-vis search and seizure restrictions and privacy rights. It is lawful when the cameras are restricted to monitoring the streets and areas where there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy.” It is unlawful to focus cameras inside someone’s home or bathroom or bedroom where there is an expectation of privacy.
     There is no law prohibiting citizens from looking out their windows or taking pictures of their front yards and the streets in front of their homes and there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” for anyone when walking down a street in full public view.

Why do we need Eyes-On-The-Street™ if we have a police force?
     FBI and other Department of Justice studies confirm that a police force acting alone is insufficient to effectively fight crime, that adding more police does not reduce crime rates, and that citizen cooperation is essential. Some cities with the largest police forces and the highest number of police officers per capita have the highest crime rates.
     Citizen cooperation is imperative. A city with 250 police officers has 500 eyes on the street protecting citizens. A city with 150,000 alert and watchful citizens has 300,000 eyes on the street. Still, when police officers and citizens close their eyes to sleep, criminals take advantage of the opportunity. But cameras never sleep. When there are witnesses to crimes, their descriptions can be inaccurate. But cameras are always accurate. The adage “A picture is worth a thousands words” is especially true in helping law enforcement get criminals off our streets and keep them out of our homes.

How does this differ from “Big Brother is watching” surveillance?
     Eyes-On-The-Street™ is a spontaneous and voluntary citizen initiative with no government control and no central monitoring of citizens’ private security cameras by a government agency. If there is a shooting or a rape or a robbery or drug dealing or whatever in a neighborhood and law enforcement needs help identifying the shooter or rapist or robber or the drug dealers or whatever, residents’ security cameras in Eyes-On-The-Street™ neighborhoods can provide that help.
     Respect for citizens' legitimate ”Big Brother" concerns is why Eyes-On-The-Street™ is designed as a crime fighting initiative for individuals and neighborhood associations to implement, not government agencies. The original proposal addressed that concern: “Because this proposal involves no government body controlling individual citizens’ cameras, there is no fear of ‘big brother watching’ and no creation of an expensive bureaucracy to run the program. It differs in no way from the security cameras now employed by businesses and organizations which are reviewed by law enforcement officers when an incident calls for security camera information.”

Other considerations

     1. Eyes-On-The-Street™ is a neighbor-helping-neighbor community undertaking. Knowing and talking with neighbors — in other words, being neighborly, friendly, kind, and helpful — is a major component of safe and healthy neighborhoods. Fostering that neighborliness is what the Eyes-On-The-Street™ citizen initiative encourages above all else. In neighborhoods where camera system costs are a major consideration, for example, neighbors can band together to purchase and share a camera system while the entire neighborhood posts camera surveillance notices to ward off wrongdoers.
     2. Some insurance companies provide reduced rates of up to 20% for home and rental insurance where security cameras are in place. Risk determines insurance rates, of course, and Huffington Post reports that where there is no camera surveillance, homes are 300 times more likely to be broken into than where there are security cameras. Because neighborhood safety is another risk factor insurance companies use to determine rates, improving neighborhood safety can lower insurance costs for everyone— while enhancing property values. Eyes-On-The-Street™ is an all-for-one-and-one-for-all approach to neighborhood safety that safeguards every home and family. Safety and security is the right of all Americans, not a privilege to be enjoyed only by the wealthy. Even if you can afford only a dummy camera, that and posting camera surveillance notices can ward off wrongdoers.
     3. Crime spreads like a cancer from neighborhood to neighborhood, block to block. Eyes-On-The-Street™ can help law enforcement clean up neighborhoods that are breeding grounds for insidious crime that threatens the entire city.
     4. Cameras also can protect the innocent from calumny. After a recent break-in, someone who plows snow at the victims’ home was cited as a suspect in social media. Later it was learned that the suspects were two boys who apparently had been casing the neighborhood on bicycles. Witnesses gave descriptions to aid law enforcement, but photos would have been a far more effective aid and would have safeguarded an innocent citizen from suspicion.
     5. Citizens sometimes complain that they call the police to report illegal drug deals in their neighborhoods, but law enforcement officers arrive on the scene too late . In those cases, camera surveillance contents can be provided to document the illegal action and identify the drug dealers.
     6. Eyes-On-The-Street™ is a crime deterrent, not a panacea. It is impossible to stop all crime, of course, particularly violent crime among those who know one another, but that is not a rationale for discouraging private citizens from protecting themselves and their neighbors from other violent crime.
     7. Camera systems are available from numerous sources. Eyes-On-The-Street™ is striving to find a supplier of low cost cameras to be purchased in bulk and made available to neighbors at cost, but anyone can purchase any camera from any preferred source. An online search for “security cameras” yields 26,600,000 results. Links which may prove helpful are http://safesoundfamily.com/p/outdoor-security-cameras-buying-guide/ and http://www.asecurelife.com/security-camera-reviews/#best-wireless-outdoor-camera, though some are high end cameras which seem too elaborate and costly for general neighborhood security. Camera systems also are available at Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, and stores specializing in surveillance systems. An Internet search for “trail cameras,” a lower cost approach, yields 94,400,000 results. There is no shortage of options from companies providing security cameras.

     If you would like more information and/or a speaker to provide an outline of Eyes-On-The-Street™ at a neighborhood meeting or other community gathering, call John Gile at 815.968.6601 or email mailbox@johngile.com.

     Below are free surveillance notices you can print out to display in windows at your home, on your garage, in your vehicles, and share with neighbors. Printed signs mounted on garden stakes for outdoor use will be made available for purchase.

Neighborhood Safety Sign 1

Neighborhood Safety Sign 2

Neighborhood Safety Sign 3

Neighborhood Safety Sign 4

Community feedback

     Following are some responses to the initial open letter proposal and to information subsequently disseminated to the community through facebook.com, nextdoor.com, and other channels:

     -- Cameras helped (at business) so they knew what the shooter or burglar looked like. Then, they usually knew who it was and went after them. I can see how in perfect situation it checkmates a criminal. Descriptions or person and vehicle, and color of clothes and vehicle is tricky at night. — SBM

     -- I've had recent vandalism and a hit and run on two of my vehicles in the past few months and I am fed up with it. We also just had a home invasion down the street last month so it's time that an initiative like this get off the ground across the entire city to help the police find and prosecute the criminals who are dragging this city down. — SN

     -- I, for one, would love to participate in this initiative! My garage has been ripped off four times and the police will do nothing because it's a detached garage on the alley. The last time I even told them who did it and where he could be found, but nothing was done. I want cameras front and back on my house so I can provide them with video proof. Then let them weasel out of it by saying I have no proof. — SA

     -- Good idea. There are ongoing problems on Garrison Street, a neighbor feeling threatened and an absentee landlord with nuisance tenants who are ruining the quality of life for others nearby. If my landlord would allow it, I'd love to have a camera and extra lighting in the yard and alley. — JR

     -- Hi John. As a former surveillance company owner, I applaud that idea. — LR

     -- Thank you John. I recently started using my phone to record bad behavior. Openly on my front porch. Works very well. Things have settled down a lot. I truly appreciate you taking this initiative to a new level. Looking forward for more info! We will surely sign up will have to work it into our budget. But the cost will certainly be worth the piece of mind, knowing my neighborhood is safe for all. — JW

     -- I do feel scared. I hear people driving thru the neighborhood at crazy sounding speeds at night. The sirens sound like Armageddon every night. — CM

     -- I appreciate your suggestion of cameras and would be interested in installing one. — TB

     -- I think this is a very good idea. — SC

     -- Very good idea! — DA

     -- I would support and participate in this project. — DM

     -- We've talked it over and would be willing to participate as well (if it's not too terribly expensive). — JM

     -- Definitely an idea worth looking into. Good idea. — CS

     -- Good idea John, maybe they could be mounted on the streetlights at the corners of each block. — MS

     -- We are in. — DK

     -- Count us in. — NE

     -- I'm definitely willing to help in any way I can. — JG

     -- I'm not sure how I can help but I'm with you on trying to ensure safety in our neighborhood.— GG

     -- I'm in. We need to feel safe when we are outside. — TS

     -- I will support you on feeling safe in our neighborhood. — AM

     -- Add me also to the list of people that want to make a safer area for us. I don't live half of the time in Churchills Grove, but my mom does. — KD

     -- Thank you, John! — GH

     -- Way to go, John! Hope something comes of it. — SCN

     -- Agree John. Do not let them form a committee or wait for studies. It’s time for action .i think you will get a lot of citizen support and go right to the top. Get some TV coverage of the proposal. — BD

     -- Thank you. I am part of the 5 Pointers Neighborhood Association and you have our full support. — DSM

     -- Thanks for stepping up John. — JK

     -- John, the camera technology has been around a long time. Cameras placed in public places do reduce crime and also help in the capture and prosecution of criminals. Progressive communities have embraced new ideas and subsequently have made their cities safer. With crime rising and city revenue falling, the community leaders need to think outside the box or step aside. — RP

     -- Hear! Hear, John. I respectfully volunteer for this. Sounds like a plan. Not only can police not watch every corner, we citizens cannot watch out our windows 24/7. We have thought of getting cameras on our own, this would aid us tremendously. - CG

     -- Awesome! Worth the try. Something needs to be done to help citizens feel safe. And after that, safer. — WOK

     -- Thank you!!!! — KCN

     -- Just home from London, England, population nine million. The crime rate is very low.  Police do not carry guns unless their job is to protect the royal family.  Our guide attributed this to the fact of camera surveillance throughout the city.  He walks all over and thought his picture probably was taken 5000 times a day. Your idea is proven successful in London. — NS

     -- I was really interested in what you had to say in your open letter. I was hoping you could keep me posted about your efforts in getting cameras for homes in the area. Both as a homeowner and as a journalist, this initiative really interests me. You can contact me anytime via email. -- KC

     Additional responses from facebook.com and nextdoor.com are continuing to come in. These are among initial responses. I apologize for the delayed update. Writing deadlines preclude devoting more that a few hours each week to this initiative. My wife insists that I focus on writing that provides income to pay our bills, and my work as an author and publisher demands first rights to my time and attention. -- John Gile

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Phone: 815.968.6601 • www.citydesk.us
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