In response to the the president of the Newark Municipal Council plans to ask city police to explore the possibility of employing a system that would allow witnesses to anonymously submit videos of crime via their cell phones.
“Technology can be used for both good and bad,” Council President Anibal Ramos said in a statement. “[W]e saw how criminals used technology to record their savage act and upload it to YouTube for the world to see. I am proposing that we use technology for good by giving law-abiding citizens the power to anonymously report criminal activity to help our police fight crime. This is one more tool, literally in our citizen’s hands, to make our city safer.”
One particularly troubling aspect of the beating -- which has drawn national attention to Newark -- is that no one reported the crime when it happened in August, even though it occurred in broad daylight along a well-traveled thoroughfare, Irvine Turner Boulevard. Some potential witnesses -- including the victim himself -- were likely reluctant to come forward out of fear of reprisals, authorities have said.
The technological solution proposed by Ramos would allow witnesses, by downloading an app to their phones, to anonymously submit tips and video of crimes to police almost as they occur. Law enforcement would then have additional evidence while the witness would not necessarily be called to break the harsh “no snitching” code seen in Newark and many other urban areas in the nation.
Dan Elliot of iThinQware of Texas, which has introduced the “iWatch” video reporting system to dozens of police departments and government agencies across the United States, said “personal tragedy” motivated him to develop the technology. His brother’s fiancee was murdered in Baltimore 23 years ago, Elliot himself was robbed at gunpoint across from his former high school, and a colleague was robbed at a hotel.
“People knew there were crime and criminals in these neighborhoods but there was no way to anonymously report it,” Elliot said.
The system, which would cost the Newark Police Department $10,000 a year, also offers a simultaneous translation feature in about 60 languages. The feature would allow a witness to submit text in his or her language, which would be translated into English on the police end. Messages sent by officers to the witness would automatically be translated into the witness’s language.
Since the information is geocoded, Elliot added, police would instantly know the location of an incident.
Ramos plans to introduce a resolution asking the department to explore the technology and report back its findings within 60 days.