During the last four weeks, Big Brother in Camden has taken note of 624 vehicles whose occupants did something suspicious near one of the city's busiest open-air drug markets, Sixth and York Streets.
The owners of these vehicles will receive letters next week warning them that their vehicles were seen - by the city's Eye in the Sky surveillance network - in the high-crime and drug-trafficking area.
"Not only has your vehicle and tag number been recorded, appropriate criminal and/or traffic offenses may be charged if our investigation reveals your vehicle and occupants to be involved in illegal activity," the letter reads.
The Camden County Prosecutor's Office and the Camden Police Department, both of which faced deep personnel cuts last year, hope the initiative will serve as a deterrent to drug buyers in a city long plagued by drug-related crimes.
The project has confirmed what city officials have been hearing from residents for a long time: Camden's drug and crime issues are not insulated city problems. Out of the 624 letters going out (205 are repeat offenders), 90 percent are going to residents of suburban communities, Cherry Hill and Sewell being the most common destinations.
"It's really a regional public safety issue," said Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd. "I think we're getting the truth now as to what's happening in our city."
However, civil liberties advocates and experts expressed concern about the unintended consequences of police targeting cars that are only seen to stop in an area of high crime.
The list of vehicles from the camera initiative "can be easily abused," said David Rudovsky, a Philadelphia civil rights and criminal defense lawyer. "People become targets unfairly just because a car was seen at the wrong place at the wrong time."