SYDNEY, Aug. 25 -- Would you want to live in a society where your every move is recorded? Where it’s not the police who survey the area you live in but your neighbors as well? This scenario is looking more likely as police engage in neighbourhood-watch using social media networking sites.
Crime prevention officer Constable Dave Hayes manages The Sutherland Local Area Command (LAC) Facebook page, which he says will work as an effective neighbourhood-watch program. (See video).
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Hayes has been updating his Facebook followers with information about recent disturbances in the area, tips on safety and other local events since the site began on July 29.
Constable Dave Hayes informing, warning and engaging the community with a click of the mouse.
“Sutherland Police wish all of our Grand Finalist's in sporting teams this weekend the best of luck and will be enforcing the full force of the law for anti-social behaviour,” he posted at 9.30pm, Wednesday, August 24.
“Extra police will be deployed for Mad Monday celebrations and will take a zero tolerance for any anti-social behaviour. Strict licensing and alcohol restriction bans (bail conditions) will be placed on any person found for such behaviour,” wrote Hayes.
CCTV cameras already lurk around every corner waiting to catch out unassuming crooks. The public are being encouraged to join in to help catch the crooks. “Police are only as good as the information they receive and there is no better CCTV cameras in this state than the human eye,” said Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher.
The Facebook mission-statement says: “Police and the community working together to reduce violence, crime and fear.” Does it create a culture of mistrust and suspicion where everyone is encouraged to observe and keep watch over each other? I am now anxious that my drunken Mad Monday antics will be tweeted or posted on Facebook to constable cop by old Betsy who lives across the road.
How much longer until Jeremy Bentham’s 1787 Panopticon comes true and “the prisoner (read citizen), not knowing when or if he/she is being observed, controls and censors his own behavior and effectively becomes his own jailor?” (see: Foucault's concept of panopticism).
Such surveillance is, however, not all gloomy. Adding local police to your online contact list will keep you in the know (or at least give you access to the messages the police want you to know).
Constable Hayes has already communicated a variety of information, which often includes links to websites. Some of these messages include alerts about scams, community events (e.g. the Battle of the bands competition), missing persons and wanted persons.
“Project Eyewatch” (as it’s being called) is in its infancy and depends on the cooperation and engagement of ordinary citizens to get involved and take part.
The project potentially brings the police into a new world of public relations where they can better connect with the community where most would have an online presence. The communication can be two-way – the police can learn from the public and the public can learn from the police. This relationship will hopefully lead to an increase in transparency and trust in policing and not an over anxious society where ordinary people are “dobbed in” for trivial things.
“We want communities to be at the forefront of not only reporting crimes, but active crime prevention in their areas,” Premier of NSW Barry O’Farrell said. “By working together and building intelligence, we can help reduce crime.”
Project Eyewatch does not replace normal crime reporting through Triple Zero (000) for urgent help, Crime Stoppers (1800 333 000) and the Police Assistance Line (131 444).