Money Island, New Jersey, is the state’s second most productive seafood landing port and the hub of millions of dollars in environmental sustainability projects by more than a dozen universities and research organizations. Recently our tiny rural community was awarded substantial funding for improved infrastructure to support our $40 million annual impact oyster industry. But the attention has not been all positive. We’ve experienced a crime wave since March of 2020 at the beginning of the Covid shutdown. Year round residential population is down to about 5 of us. The daily work force averages about 30. As we continue to grow the local economy, we also need to improve safety and security.
We had no choice but to increase security. I expect some community pushback from the latest technology intended to deter crime and make our Money Island community safer. Some have asked if the upgraded security system is legal. It is.
We are physically far removed from law enforcement protection, we have no local police force, and state police are typically 40 minutes away. I’ve been physically attacked twice here in recent years. Suspects were identified, but not prosecuted. Thefts and looting (stripping buildings and machinery for copper and valuables) has caused us to be unable to reopen the marina business since the covid shutdown. Financial relief intended for Covid reopening never made it to rural communities like ours. Some people here are still desperate and they see crime as their only option.
We started by installing a network of solar powered telephoto cameras from one end of our community to the other. A drone helps occasionally supplement the stationary cameras as needed. The camera feed is shared electronically with an online network of community members who receive notices of people, movement or intrusions into secure areas. The crowdsourced network have proven more effective than a professional monitoring service. This system recently provided evidence in defense of a fake staged slip and fall complaint. Unfortunately, it also films unintended things like people peeing in front of a camera or pooping on the beach.
Next we installed multiple types of tracker devices hidden inside commercial equipment. The idea came from the oyster industry, where bay to consumer tracking of product is now possible. That system already resulted in the conviction of one criminal.
I’m not a big fan of arming civilian populations to deter crime, but I now carry self-defense weapons when working alone at the boatyard. Alarms and protection equipment are installed in each vessel and building.
The latest security improvement is a cloud-based service that builds a vehicle database and syncs with law enforcement networks in real time. It builds a profile of each vehicle that enters or leaves the business based on vehicle color, make, model, license plate, etc. These records cannot be lost, buried, or mishandled. Before the vehicle even gets close to the camera, the records are logged into the cloud. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our local state police barracks has an embarrassing track record of losing or failing to file past police reports on criminal complaints in our neighborhood. It is a highly invasive technology but no more so that what we see in online services today.
We hoped that our local township would adopt the security system but they are restricted by budget. All of these security measures are paid by our local neighborhood association.
Technology is proving effective in deterring crime here. Besides, it may be our only practical option. As we continue to invest millions in the years ahead, making Money Island a model for environmental resilience, we also must make it a safe place to live, work and visit.