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Sick of Your Local Police Force? Crowdfund Your Own 330

Posted by samzenpus
from the people-police dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "A subset of Oakland, California residents have decided to crowd-fund a set of private security patrols, via a trio of campaigns on a crowdfunding Website named Crowdtilt. The three patrols, if adequately funded, will cover Lower Rockridge North/West, Lower Rockridge South/West, and Lower Rockridge 'including part of the Uplands.' Each campaign has a different (Facebook verified, apparently) sponsor, and wants between $20,000 and $25,000 to make the dream of private patrols a reality. Unlike Kickstarter, the Crowdtilt campaigns don't feature fabulous prizes for contributing; gifting $100, for example, won't entitle you to 'One (1) free "accidental" shooting of your choice.' That aside, dozens of residents have contributed cash to the loosely allied projects. 'What occurred last week at the Casual Carpool has ignited our neighborhood to act,' reads one of the campaign descriptions, referring to the broad-daylight stickup of commuters waiting in a carpool line on Oakland's Hudson Street. 'While the city and the police are doing what they can, we feel it's time for us as a community to begin exploring a wide range of ideas and taking some action on our own.' All three crowdfunding pages want to hire VMA Security Group for a four-month trial period through February 2014, possibly followed by a continuing contract if everything works out. That security company already patrols the Rockridge commercial district during the holiday season, and protects a number of Oakland businesses and households. While the VMA Security Group's officers are certified to carry firearms, one of the crowdfunding pages plans to ask any of them assigned to the neighborhood to remain unarmed 'unless they feel they cannot accomplish their duties otherwise.' Upscale neighborhoods pay for private security all the time, of course. The question is whether crowdfunding — better known for financing things such as games and indie movies, at this point — could catch on as a way of funding residential projects."
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Sick of Your Local Police Force? Crowdfund Your Own

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  • Where do you find unamed people? I doubt very small babies would make good security folks.

  • liability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bugs2squash (1132591) on Monday October 07, 2013 @02:43PM (#45062695)
    If they were to convince me to donate, I'd have to know that I was indemnified against any blowback from their actions. It sound's ripe for enforcement scandal. All in all I think I'd rather contribute more to the local police and work to get them up to scratch if they are lacking in some way.
  • Sounds like a beautiful idea, but these poor people are being placed in a position where they are forced to pay for ineffective police (at gunpoint no less) while volunteering to pay for their own police who will be held accountable for their action AND inaction.

    I wonder of the private cops work for Bitcon?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @02:43PM (#45062699)

    If only there were some mechanism where a large portion of the population could give some money to people to provide law enforcement services to a community before the Internet was invented.

    • by JeffAtl (1737988)

      It's a misconception that the police provide protection against crime. Very few police departments conduct useful patrols that would protect against home invasions or muggings.

      Instead, police patrols tend to focus almost exclusively on traffic violations as it is a source of revenue and is more fun.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Because they can't run their dept without that revenue. My town/suburb has great patrols. I smile when I pay my property taxes. Remember this next time some politician says he will lower your taxes.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by JeffAtl (1737988)

          Because they can't run their dept without that revenue.

          Sure they can - they've just got addicted to shiny new toys. Why does every small town police department think it needs an armored personnel carrier?

          The police should not be in the revenue business as it is a moral hazard.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Mine does not have one.
            Doing that would require people willing to pay property taxes. When you tell the police to go find their own income, they will.

      • by DaHat (247651)

        More so, the police have no duty to preventatively protect you from crime.

        Have a restraining order against your abusive ex and see them standing outside your house? Go ahead and call the police, IF they come, chances are it won't be until after the ex has had more than an ample chance to do something and leave.

      • Traffic violations and drugs. Drugs are great, because they lead to asset seizures.

    • by icebike (68054)

      If only there were some mechanism where a large portion of the population could give some money to people to provide law enforcement services to a community before the Internet was invented.

      Oh, yes, very cute. Aren't you so very clever.

      The point is that it doesn't work. It never has, and in a city like Oakland it never will.

      Police don't prevent crime. At best they solve easy crimes, and catch stupid criminals. After the fact. Maybe. Nationally, robbery has a 27% clearance rate (% "solved") [nypost.com]. Even that percentage is biased because most solved street robberies are those where weapons were actually used. Police don't actually have much time for robberies unless someone gets hurt. They wil

  • by bogidu (300637) on Monday October 07, 2013 @02:43PM (#45062709)

    this is how police forces were initially created in this country anyway.

    • by necro81 (917438)
      Yes, but now they are widely accepted as a necessary public good. If the present police force is not up to the task, the solution isn't for everyone to start hiring their own private guards, but rather to force the local government and police force to do better. If that means that it raises taxes on some or all, then so be it.

      It used to be that most roads were toll roads, too, in some cases solely in private hands. Is the solution to poorly maintained roads for everyone to start laying their own pavem
      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Yes, but now they are widely accepted as a necessary public good. If the present police force is not up to the task, the solution isn't for everyone to start hiring their own private guards, but rather to force the local government and police force to do better. If that means that it raises taxes on some or all, then so be it.

        And how are you going to "force them" to do better? The ballot box isn't working, in part because towns and cities have become too big. The solution most people have come up with is pr

        • by Ardyvee (2447206)

          Or, you know, the ability to contract your local police force into patrolling your neighborhood. I mean, why not? They get more revenue, you get more protection and if everything goes right, the overall level of your local police improves because they have more money for more people. But just maybe.

          Or... raise taxes?

          • by stenvar (2789879) on Monday October 07, 2013 @04:32PM (#45063999)

            I can fire a security firm protecting my house. A dozen other home owners can fire the security protecting a private development. Firing the local police force and replacing it is much, much harder than either choice. That's why police forces have so many problems: they get paid pretty much no matter what.

  • While the VMA Security Group's officers are certified to carry firearms, one of the crowdfunding pages plans to ask any of them assigned to the neighborhood to remain unnamed 'unless they feel they cannot accomplish their duties otherwise.'

    You can not violate my constitutional right to be named.

  • by captjc (453680) on Monday October 07, 2013 @02:45PM (#45062735)

    Rockridge? I saw this movie, it involves an incompetent, corrupt governor, and a black sheriff. I also suspect it will end with a giant pie fight in the Warner Brothers studio commissary.

    • I don't remember a pie fight in Kuffs [imdb.com] , Christian Slater's finest film.
    • by cruff (171569)
      I always used to think the governor's name was Le Ptomaine, as in the bacterial poison. I found out this weekend that it was in reality Lepetomane, from the French "Le Pétomane" (fart maniac), which means "flatulist", "farteur", or "fartiste" according to the Wikipedia article.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Rockridge? I saw this movie, it involves an incompetent, corrupt governor, and a black sheriff. I also suspect it will end with a giant pie fight in the Warner Brothers studio commissary.

      Sounds like a documentary of Los Angeles police force, circa 2001

    • by cusco (717999)

      Maybe they could hire Mongo, just send him a candygram once in a while and he'd be happy.

  • by duckgod (2664193) on Monday October 07, 2013 @02:46PM (#45062745)
    This is the explicit purpose of taxes. When the majority of people say that society would benefit from everyone chipping in to a cause. What is this world coming to when people resort to a website called "Crowdtilt" as a replacement for government?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JesseMcDonald (536341)

      What is this world coming to when people resort to a website called "Crowdtilt" as a replacement for government?

      Civilization.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I think you mean the opposite.

        Civilization is what it would be if we had taxes used for a productive police force.

        • by Flammon (4726)

          No, he has it right. Taxes are forced upon you. Only when it's voluntary will we be civilized.

    • Bbbbbbut taxes take away freeeeeeeeeedom!

      • Bbbbbbut taxes take away freeeeeeeeeedom!

        We're talking about Oakland, CA.

        The generic loss of freedom is pretty much a given at this point.

    • by tthomas48 (180798)

      This is basically just a paid cops program. Which is not a horrible idea. Paying minimum wage to people who might otherwise be committing crimes doesn't seem like a bad idea.
      A private police force it is not, however.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Meh, this is a replacement for government in the same way a 'go faster stripes' paint job is a replacement for an engine. At the rates they are talking, they are unlikely to get that much coverage or people on the ground, and the police force still has to do the actual work. So what they are paying for is someone to take their panic away. And while government my pander to people's fear, it generally has to actually still do basic services with all the trade offs those entail.
    • I think the funny part is that if somebody proposed the new tax to fund extra police force in the district, same people would go apeshit over it.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Do you have even the slightest clue of how many police it would take to provide one for any random collection of 6 or more people at every car-pool waiting zone, or every bus stop? Seriously, have you spent even a minute thinking about this?

      Oakland Police patrol officers make a median salary of around $56.8K, [salary.com] which as $6K greater than the national average.

      Do you seriously think that city can afford to have a cop everywhere one might be needed, 24/7? Do you want to pay that level of taxation? (Judging from

    • And "taxes" are always sold as "good roads, police, fire, and schools". Only about 10% of your taxes go for roads, police, fire.. and another %15 for schools.

      The rest goes for stuff like "healthcare, welfare, pensions, and interest on debt." Nobody ever sells you a "tax increase for more welfare", and when folks see that 75% of the spending goes for stuff they (didn't think) they bargained for, it makes it a tough sell when politicians clamor for more taxes.

      That is why many taxes now are not "for some
  • OCP (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deathlizard (115856) on Monday October 07, 2013 @02:48PM (#45062779) Homepage Journal

    Are They calling it Oakland Community Police?

    Does RoboCop work for them?

  • Changing culture (Score:4, Interesting)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby&comcast,net> on Monday October 07, 2013 @02:56PM (#45062895)

    What's the point of this? The local culture isn't going to be changed, and your going to have the same culture clash with the new police department as the old. Cops enforce the law? Residents get pissed about getting arrested. Cops don't enforce the law? Residents get pissed about crime.

    This says nothing of the fact that the "new" police would have to work with the "old" police on a daily basis. This is a neighborhood where snitches are murdered and the murder is celebrated. How on earth is a new police department going to fix this?

  • I'd be willing to bet that many, if not most, of those funding this have backed reduced taxes and the subsequent reduction of the police force.
    • by Tailhook (98486)

      I'd be willing to bet that many, if not most, of those funding this have backed reduced taxes and the subsequent reduction of the police force.

      The net effect being fewer quota filling radar gun operators and more people deterring actual crime.

      How terrible.

      Anyhow, I guess we've found a way to gin up some love for cops on Slashdot; cut government out of the equation. You'd think something that might offset the hoards of power-of-arrest enabled lawmen you all seem loath might be appealing around here.

      Guess not.

  • Leave Oakland.

    I don't care how attached I may feel to a location, the safety of my family is my number one priority.
    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Probably the smart choice.

      The inmates run the asylum there.

      It's generally my opinion that anywhere that generates more than a couple of shaky cell-phone videos worth showing on WorldStar is worth never, ever, going to under any circumstances.

    • Leave Oakland. I don't care how attached I may feel to a location, the safety of my family is my number one priority.

      The poverty level in some of the worst areas of East Oakland exceeds 35% - those people aren't going anywhere. Sorry, but in the real world problems like this don't have the simple solution you have put forward.

      If you could afford to leave East Oakland, you very likely wouldn't be there in the first place. Accordingly, I don't see how crowd-funding private security would work. TFS mention

      • by jittles (1613415)

        Leave Oakland. I don't care how attached I may feel to a location, the safety of my family is my number one priority.

        The poverty level in some of the worst areas of East Oakland exceeds 35% - those people aren't going anywhere. Sorry, but in the real world problems like this don't have the simple solution you have put forward.

        If you could afford to leave East Oakland, you very likely wouldn't be there in the first place. Accordingly, I don't see how crowd-funding private security would work. TFS mentions the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland which enjoys the lowest crime rates (and lowest poverty rate) in all of Oakland. This project, while accomplishing very little to begin with, will not provide these services to the worst areas of Oakland -- where help of some kind is needed most.

        It could, potentially, free up law enforcement resources to help with the worst parts of Oakland though. That still does not address the poverty issues, however.

      • This project, while accomplishing very little to begin with, will not provide these services to the worst areas of Oakland -- where help of some kind is needed most.

        If it displaces the crime somewhere else, then that's a win for Rockridge, and ya-boo-sucks-you're -poor-'cos-jebus-hates-you to those who live where it goes to.

        Because like freedom and the market and all that.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:08PM (#45063069) Journal

    What you are seeing here is the birth of a government. First it's law enforcement, paid for by voluntary contributions. Then maybe some additional services - upgraded fire or rescue. Then it gets big enough that someone has to start working full time to manage it. If everyone decides (as often happens) that the people organizing this shouldn't be profiting, they all agree to take turns. Of course, this becomes cumbersome and they really find they need more continuity so the community chooses 3-4 people who will manage it, and they change those people every couple of years to each person doesn't get burned out. Then after a couple years the revenue starts flagging, and they realize that they're going to have to reimburse the organizers, and have to find a way to make sure everyone is contributing. So they form a local organization which includes everyone getting services and they agree on a way to split the costs equitably so everyone gets a bill. Most places choose the split by land area or value. Soon enough they realize that with everybody paying, they can get better garbage service, and maybe even reform the schools if everyone kicks in a little more.

    And then one street decides that they aren't really getting enough service, so they take up a collection for a private security firm to supplement the (now official) police...

  • by swb (14022) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:09PM (#45063077)

    This Slashdot story reminded me of an awful Christian Slater movie, "Kuffs" which used the San Francisco Patrol Special Police as its plot device. As it turns out, that organization is real (couldn't Google it in 1992 when the movie came out).

    This sounds a lot like what they want in Oakland.

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:12PM (#45063131) Homepage
    If I threw a rock hard enough, I would have hit the Uplands. That neighborhood is CRAZY. Trick or treating there as a kid was a good way to work off the calories from all the candy, as you had to go up so many steps the sugar was a wash. Many of the homes there have coats of arms over the doors. They are wealthy, wealthy, wealthy. I've seen houses in my old neighborhood which is a ghetto in comparison selling for well over $1M, so these places are easily in the tens of millions.

    Of course they're getting private security. The Oakland police are so busy that if you're reporting a crime that is not CURRENTLY IN PROGRESS, they'll mail you a report form. You never even see an officer if your car or house is broken into.

    Meanwhile, half a mile away, on Telegraph Ave, Berkeley has about the highest concentration of mentally ill homeless people in the nation, perhaps outside of Manhattan. But heaven forbid someone gets their big screen TV stolen.
  • You know, it would make a good movie for the security company to have staged the original stickup in order to convince everyone just how much they need a security company . . .
  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:18PM (#45063207) Homepage Journal

    gifting $100, for example, won't entitle you to 'One (1) free "accidental" shooting of your choice.'

    Was anyone expecting this? I mean it's not like it's Florida...

  • Going Old School (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tranquilidad (1994300) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:21PM (#45063249)

    This is how policing and fire fighting started to begin with. Neighbors would band together and volunteer to patrol the streets to prevent crime. Some rural areas still use an emergency siren to summon the area's volunteer fire fighting force; first one to the station drives the truck.

    At some point we decided we wanted a dedicated force so we banded together and started paying the police and fire fighters as professionals. But they were still our neighbors and friends and part of the community.

    When our communities became too large for everyone to know one another and our local management organization, the government, became too large to care we ended up in the situation we have today of us and them. There are people who really believe the government "gives" us protection in the form of police officers and fire fighters. Those who believe this forget that we banded together to create those institutions to serve us and save us the trouble of having to volunteer ourselves.

    Once the government became a foundational institution we just assumed that "they" had the responsibility to protect "us", we accepted that unions were formed to negotiate with "us" and we assume that we're prohibited from protecting ourselves.

    The professionalization of the police and fire fighting organizations are what allowed huge parts of the population to justify their abdication of personal responsibility.

    I can't argue against that professionalization because of the efficiencies it should deliver. I can, however, argue that community policing is sorely needed in many parts of this country. Any profession, unionized or not, is going to fight against competition.

    We need to remind "them" that we didn't give them a monopoly on protecting us and we certainly didn't abdicate our own right of self protection and preservation.

    • Re:Going Old School (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:45PM (#45063509)

      Fire fighting actually had a less social origin. The first formal fire-fighting organisations were in London, and private businesses. They ran on the insurance model: Property owners paid a fixed due on intervals for protection, and if their property caught fire then the fire engine would be dispatched (Along with men to pump it - this was pre-engine, all hand driven) and the firemen would do their best to put the fire out.

      The companies were quite unpopular because of another business approach of theirs: If a property caught fire that *wasn't* owned by a customer, they'd still drive the engine up. And then sit around idley, while the boss negotiated payment. As they had the upper hand in those negotiations, they could usually get a massive fee to put the fire out.

  • If only we could buy our own patent officers.
    And lobbyists.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:43PM (#45063487) Homepage

    Upscale neighborhoods pay for private security all the time, of course.

    That's usually a sign of their disdain for the public at large or that one is in a Third World country.

    The question is whether crowdfunding—better known for financing things such as games and indie movies, at this point—could catch on as a way of funding residential projects."

    Privatizing law enforcement has the same issue with privatizing prisons - worse quality with more incentive to prosecute.

  • Death and taxes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:48PM (#45063551)

    The question is whether crowdfundingâ"better known for financing things such as games and indie movies, at this pointâ"could catch on as a way of funding residential projects.

    Beyond a certain size, which is variable, you need taxes instead of voluntary donations. Because some people are just leeches on the system.

    Yes, I'm looking at you so-called libertarians, randroids, and anarchists that want all the bennies of living in a civilized society but think that paying for it is bad.

    --
    BMO

  • Hyde Park, Chicago (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ygslash (893445) on Monday October 07, 2013 @04:08PM (#45063771) Journal
    When I was a graduate student at University of Chicago, the University's private police force was the third largest police force in Illinois, after the cities of Chicago and Springfield. That may still be the case. The University police patrolled the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago in which the University is situated. Hyde Park is surrounded on three sides by high-crime neighborhoods, and on the east by a park along the shore of Lake Michigan, but it was safe to walk the streets of Hyde Park at all hours of the day or night. University police patrol cars could constantly be seen cruising slowly up and down every street. In those days before cell phones were popular, you could walk up any street almost without ever taking your hand off an emergency call box. When I first visited Hyde Park for my interview, I remember being told the exact boundaries of where it was safe to walk. That included things like "make sure to walk only along the south side of 47th Street, never along the north side of the street."
    • I'm sure now its Chicago and Aurora, A-Town has been growing pretty rapidly and is also a pretty high crime area.

      The transition from Washington Park to Hyde Park is just amazing, not because poverty is awesome or anything, the transition is just so abrupt. I use to take 90/94 there when LSD was backed up and man is that depressing.

      U of C is kind of this strange island of affluence and academic excellence surrounded by some of the most disenfranchised and poverty stricken areas in the state, possibly t
  • by sdinfoserv (1793266) on Monday October 07, 2013 @04:32PM (#45064001) Homepage
    This is just another case of the haves who are able to "contribute" or donate to a security zone vs the public funding of police. I'm sure all of the people who contribute are vehemently against increased "taxes", yet those taxes are the very thing that support public services like police. They are in essence paying a selective tax (supporting private security). Those areas too poor to hire their own private security will continue to decline. This is no different than the rich sending their children to private schools, hiring security and personal physicians then refusing to pay any form of taxes. As we continue down this path, the middle class will dissolve and we'll be left with children begging in the streets and the era of Dickens or a world like Mr Potter in "A wonderful life" will the reality for everyone.

When I left you, I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master. - Darth Vader

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