It was an opportunity that Easton Police officers didn’t hesitate to capitalize on. The Department used $400,000 in their budget to buy and install 19 crime cameras around the city. But there was only one problem. While they had money to get the cameras, they didn’t have enough money to pay officers to monitor them.
“We did realize that unfortunately with the constraints on the department, we were not able to permanently put officers in here to monitor the cameras on a full-time basis,” said Easton Police Captain David Beitler.
With no money in the budget, Easton Police say they had no choice but to ask someone to do it for free. So they turned to their “Volunteers in Police Service,” a program composed of normal citizens and volunteers.
“Their position within the volunteers has kind of morphed a little bit from just doing some clerical work to actually working the cameras or monitoring the cameras for us, which has been great,” said Beitler. “Some of our volunteers watch the cameras while our officers watch the cameras when they can.”
The move quickly sparked controversy however as a debate began regarding whether civilians without police backgrounds should be watching crime cameras.
“I think they’ll miss it,” said Brandon Bedoya. “I don’t think they’re trained enough to know what to look for, honestly.”
Others welcomed the idea however.
“I think it’s great that we’re getting the community involved in our safety,” said Brittany Vokoun.
Easton Police say their volunteers haven’t missed anything on the monitors and have even guided officers in making arrests.
“Our focus has always been on trying to get as many officers as we can out on the street,” said Beitler.
The Easton Police Department is ultimately hoping to set some money aside in order to solicit private sector donations so that they can eventually have only law enforcement in front of the crime camera monitors. For now though, they remain reliant on everyday people.