In Detroit, driving at night north up Woodward Avenue, a long, wide boulevard, one’s eye is caught by emerald green lights, perched on the topmost corners of gas station signs, laundromats, corner stores, peep shows, groceries, and churches. They blink quickly, three times in a row. Their green makes for strange beacons, at first eerie, then comforting, not a warning, but an invitation.
The green lights are part of Project Green Light Detroit, an initiative undertaken by the Detroit Police Department to create safer businesses through a “public-private community partnership.” Business owners buy real-time cameras which generate feeds that run continuously to a real-time crime center. Though there are instances of single feeds being monitored by a department officer at the very moment a crime is about to happen or is in media res, it is more often the case that there is not enough personnel to oversee. The footage is stored digitally and can be tracked back and used to prosecute criminality. The intention, as the Department phrases it, is to make people feel safe. Business owners and customers alike, in the collapse of community and civic services, agree: they feel safer. They would rather go to a remote establishment in a food desert that has a green light and feel a sense of safety and protection, however misplaced, however unsettling the idea that being surveilled provides comfort at all…
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