- A small Oregon town can’t afford police officers at night, so the city council approved a proposal to install security cameras manned by volunteers.
- The idea has sparked condemnation from civil-rights advocates who have raised concerns about racial profiling.
- One town official said the volunteers would be able to identify “hardcore criminals” just by looking at them.
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A small Oregon town that can’t afford to employ police officers for night shifts plans to install security cameras and recruit a group of volunteers to man them.
Cave Junction’s city council voted unanimously last month to install eight cameras on streetlights and give a local group access to the live feeds. The proposal still needs final approval from Josephine County officials.
The idea has sparked condemnation from civil-rights advocates who have raised concerns about racial profiling – especially after one town official said the volunteers would be able to identify “hardcore criminals” just by looking at them.
“They can identify by the way that they dress, because they have a certain apparel that they wear all the time, the way that they walk, sometimes they carry certain things with them all the time – it could be something as simple as a skateboard,” Rebecca Patton, Cave Junction’s city recorder, told Jefferson Public Radio. “But they have learned to identify these people very quickly and then they know how to respond.”
Patton added that the volunteers will not receive formal training but that she might implement “some sort of background check” before giving them access to the live feeds.
One local group tweeted, “Civil rights violation incoming in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…”
CJ Patrol, the group that will receive the access if county officials approve the measure, bills itself as a “private citizen volunteer organisation” focusing on property crimes in the area.
The group says on its Facebook page that it is “neither law enforcement nor vigilantes,” but will instead act as a “strong deterrent” against crime.
“We don’t do domestic disputes, street brawls, drug enforcement, roust the homeless, traffic control, or involve ourselves in major crimes requiring the presence of law enforcement, although they will be reported,” the group’s description said.
The group already conducts street patrols throughout the town of 2,000.
The Oregonian reported that sheriff’s deputies only patrol the town during the daytime on Monday through Friday and has relied for years on CJ Patrol to cover all the time in between. Anyone calling 911 for emergencies at night could end up waiting for at least 45 minutes for a state trooper to arrive, according to Jefferson Public Radio.
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