NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A network of surveillance cameras around Newark will soon let people watch various locations in what local leaders are calling “a block watch on steroids” against criminal activity.

City officials launched the Citizen Virtual Patrol on Thursday, announcing 62 cameras available for selected users to monitor through a police website.

“Using it is an opportunity for residents in their neighborhood to be looking at everyday things in their community, not just police looking at occurrences that are accidental, or hurricanes, dramatic experiences,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka, noting it will allow the public “to immediately act upon any suspicious or criminal activity while it’s occurring.”

To participate, people need use a desktop or laptop computer to register through the Newark Police Division’s website at npd.newarkpublicsafety.org. Once into the system and monitoring the cameras, people can report crimes or other dangerous situations by calling 973-733-6000 for non-emergencies, or 911 for emergencies.

The camera network project was part of a $850,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that Newark received last year under the federal SMART Policing Initiative.

Police departments in Chicago and elsewhere across the country have invested in expanding public surveillance cameras to add more eyes to monitoring crime.

Plans are already underway in Newark to expand the initial launch to a citywide network of 125 cameras.

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