OAKLAND -- About 100 people packed into the Redwood Heights Recreation Center on Monday night to hear from Jesper "JJ" Jurcenoks about an organization he is spearheading called Neighborhood Guard.

The self-described "crime prevention activist" is promoting a "co-op of neighborhoods" that would band together to fight crime through the use of street surveillance cameras and a shared database.

"Every criminal caught in another neighborhood is one less criminal coming to my neighborhood," Jurcenoks said.

He said the Neighborhood Guard idea began after an "unfortunate crime" on his street.

"My neighbors agreed this was unacceptable, and we decided to buy surveillance cameras to monitor cars entering and leaving the area," Jurcenoks said. "If criminals know they're being filmed, they're less likely to go into your neighborhood."

The state-of-the-art infrared cameras were installed on both ends of the street, along with signage alerting drivers that they are being videotaped 24/7. The cameras have a 98 percent success rate in reading car license plates, even in dark, rainy conditions.

Jurcenoks also developed sophisticated software that allows images to be recorded, sorted and stored for 60 days in a database. To ensure privacy, images are only reviewed if and when a crime occurs.

"Our goal is to deter criminals, report incidents to the police and assist in the apprehension of criminals," said Jurcenoks, who brings some surveillance chops to the table. The Danish-born entrepreneur is co-founder of netVigilance, a company that scans computer networks, headquartered in Silicon Valley.

Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, whose district includes Redwood Heights, attended Monday's meeting. She is a strong supporter of Neighborhood Guard.

"Coming up to Thanksgiving, I am full of gratitude for this effort," Schaaf said. "(Neighborhood Guard) has brought a sense of safety that they will share with all of you tonight. That's what community is all about."

She said that police are stretched to solve crimes, but that with the installation of security cameras "there would be a network of information that police could never accomplish. This is a tremendous step for safety in our neighborhoods."

Jurcenoks detailed how Neighborhood Guard works, and how much it costs to join the co-op. There is a buy-in fee and an annual maintenance fee.

For example, 47 households with three cameras would spend $1,000 for the buy-in and $400 for the annual fee. A neighborhood with 249 households and three cameras would spend $3,000 to buy in and $400 annually. As in any co-op, as Jurcenoks pointed out, the more neighborhoods that participate, the lower the costs for everyone.

"It increases our buying power," he said. "We save dollars on cameras and installation by buying in a big group."

Jurcenoks said a co-op is preferable to a nonprofit, which is much more limited in terms of purpose, revenue and political action.

"In a co-op, we can do whatever we want," he said. "If Microsoft wants to buy our program for $100 million, we can do that."

Another aspect of co-op membership is that once a neighborhood group is up and running, members are required to recruit and mentor three more neighborhoods into the program within a two-year period. Attendees at Monday's meeting had a lot of questions. One wanted to know the success rate of Neighborhood Guard on Jurcenoks' street. Jurcenoks cited a hit-and-run driver who was caught on tape and subsequently arrested. However, he said success is hard to measure.

Another person wondered if criminals might steal the cameras. Jurcenoks explained that the cameras are well hidden. However, decoy cameras are openly displayed to create a visual deterrent. Forming a member-owned co-op requires a lot of organization, including banking, bylaws and forming a board.

FYI
For more information visit www.neighborhoodguard.org.