Faced with a rise in armed robberies and the frustrations of relying on a notoriously beleaguered police department, neighbors in several Oakland communities have recently used crowdfunding websites to raise money for private security patrols.
Supporters of hiring rent-a-cops say they are a good value; with 226 households paying around $80, one Rockridge neighborhood can pay a private security company for four months of 12-hour patrols on weekdays. Proponents are quick to note that the security guards will be unarmed and unable to make arrests. The idea is that simply having more alert eyes on the streets will deter criminals looking for a pedestrian to rob or a house to burgle.
However, others argue a digital divide separates those who know about the online fundraising campaigns and those who do not. As a result, private security guards will arrive without enough discussion and minus the consent of everyone in the community. Others worry about a widening social divide when private security guards patrol wealthier neighborhoods, and poor precincts remain stuck in a crime wave with only a struggling, taxpayer-funded police force to call for help.
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