A San Francisco man who webcasts the street view from his Tenderloin apartment 24 hours a day says the project started small and grew unexpectedly.
"I'm surprised that people are so interested in it," Jackson said.
Jackson, 22, is a social media consultant who helps businesses use new Internet media such as Facebook and Twitter for communication.
After moving to San Francisco from St. Augustine, Fla., in June, Jackson and his girlfriend rented a studio apartment at Taylor and Ellis streets in a noisy and what he calls "sketchy" area at the edge of downtown. Fights, muggings, drug deals and car break-ins are common.
Jackson said he began webcasting the street scene from the sixth-floor apartment in late October to show family and friends in Florida where he lived after his father remarked during a phone call, "It's noisy there."
Since then, viewing of the round-the-clock videos has spread to thousands of people around the world and turned into a crime-prevention tool.
Jackson said he called police when he heard glass breaking and saw a car break-in in progress and several other crimes have been reported by other video watchers.
San Francisco Police Department spokesman Sgt. Wilfred Williams said the department welcomes the public's assistance in reporting crimes.
"In general, our most valuable tool at solving crimes is the public and we're always seeking the assistance of the public to come forward when they see a crime," Williams said.
Jackson said the webcasts have appeared on other sites as well and he believes the total number of individual viewers in the past five and one-half weeks amounts to 250,000 to 300,000. He estimated only 15 percent of the viewers are in the Bay Area.
Jackson said donations have thus far brought in $1,000 of the $1,500 he is seeking for better equipment, including a new microphone and two cameras that would enable him to show simultaneous views of the intersections to both the north and south of the Taylor Street apartment. The intersections are at Ellis and Eddy streets.
After he has obtained the equipment, Jackson said, he will channel donations made through his Web site to neighborhood homeless shelters and Glide Memorial Church on Ellis Street, the corner of which can be seen in the webcasts.
Jackson said he and his girlfriend originally planned to move to a new apartment when their lease was up, but said, "I guess I can't move now."