Residents of Dallas’s Richland Park Estates area took the traditional neighborhood crime watch concept a step further, chipping in $50 each to hook up hidden Web cams and post warning signs. The result, police say, is an 80 percent drop in crime, reports the Associated Press. More neighborhoods around the nation are using Web cams, but some criminologists question their long-term effectiveness and civil rights activists worry about a loss of privacy. “Videos and Big Brother have been an issue for some time, but technology has made it more efficient and accessible,” said Alex del Carmen, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Arlington. “You can literally be sitting in Key West, Fla., and watching on your laptop who is coming into your neighborhood.”
Matt Peskin of the National Association of Town Watch, which is holding its National Night Out against crime tonight, says this strategy is common in office parks and city streets but new to suburban enclaves. Omni-Watch Systems Inc., customized and installed a surveillance system in Richland Park Estates in February for $7,000. Burglaries have dropped from about 16 a month to about two since the cameras went up, Dallas Police Sgt. Rector McCollum said. McCollum said police have focused more officers and resources in the area, likely helping improve the crime rate, but said the cameras have been a factor. “There is just no denying the fact that it worked,” he said. “It is like having lots of extra sets of eyes up there.” Criminologist del Carmen said that while surveillance often helps, the effect is usually temporary because neighborhood watchdogs let down their guard and criminals adapt. When the cameras do work, they often move crime to areas that are easier targets, he added.