Amazon’s Ring brand has an app called Neighbors that lets people know about crime in their area.
Video doorbells, such as Ring, offer a paid subscription option that works with local police departments and sheriff’s offices. Law enforcement agencies are able to request and use video footage from Ring doorbell users to solve crimes.
For example, a neighbor might post clips from their doorbell showing a package theft, a suspicious person or a burglary.
The Ormond Beach Police Department recently joined the partnership with Capt. Chris Roos as the point person.
“I took the lead when we were getting this program set up. We came on board in June,” Capt. Roos said. “After doing some research, we realized that this might be good for our neighborhood, for our city. So, we reached out to Ring and did all the necessary paperwork to get us on board.
“It allows us to reach out to our residents that have a camera and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a Ring camera. With one email, we can get it out to hundreds of persons. You can have any camera in your house hooked to the Ring network in the Ring Neighbors program.”
The police can put out an alert that a crime has happened in a particular subdivision and request anyone in that area to check their videos to see if anything that might prove helpful shows up, he said. It is strictly voluntary and people do not have to respond or provide the footage.
A scenario could be that someone’s doorbell camera films a package being taken off their porch but the thief’s face is concealed. Another neighbor may to have film showing the same approximate time frame with the thief wearing the same clothes but their identity is clear and/or they may be getting into a car with a picture of the license plate.
Capt. Roos added that if you are expecting packages, try to coordinate with the delivery service to have a concealed spot for delivery. “If people can see your packages from the street. it makes it easier for them (to steal)” he said. “You want to make your stuff safer and their job harder.”
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has been using the technology with Ring since last year. Ring app users all over Volusia County can share their footage with detectives seeking evidence to solve cases. They can connect directly to VCSO and provide critical evidence of a crime in real time. The system doesn't allow VCSO or anyone else to tap in to live video feeds or otherwise access any user’s video without their permission. There is a small cost for users.
The Sheriff’s Department has already succeeded in using Ring video to make arrests. From a Facebook post VCSO described how last year, suspected burglar Frank Johnson was caught on camera trying the doors on a home in the Daytona Beach area. The homeowner wasn’t there, but when he got an alert on his phone from his Ring security camera, he was able to speak directly to the would-be burglar.
Within minutes, the homeowner was sharing images of the suspect and his vehicle with a deputy and with the Volusia County Crime Center, which monitors the Ring Neighborhood portal for cases just like these. A deputy spotted the truck and pulled it over, later arresting Johnson on several active warrants for grand theft, dealing in stolen property and other charges – plus new charges of attempted burglary.
More recent footage from a Ring security camera led to the arrest of a New Smyrna Beach package thief after an analyst in the Crime Center saw the video in the Ring Neighborhood Portal and recognized the suspect from an earlier New Smyrna Beach Police Department bulletin.
It wasn’t long before NSB police arrested the suspect, 27-year-old Thomas Coleman, at the Walmart in New Smyrna Beach. The package theft wasn’t reported to police, but the Crime Center got an email notification from Ring when the victim posted a crime alert to the Neighborhood Portal with video of the package being stolen.
Sgt. Chris Kirk of the New Smyrna Beach Police Department stated, “We are currently utilizing the Neighbors app to monitor issues in our jurisdiction and our City Attorney’s office is working with Ring’s legal department to come to an agreement to establish a partnership to fully utilize their platform. We are dedicated to using technology to develop intelligence, reduce crime, and improve our citizen’s quality of life.”
Assistant City Attorney Chris Ryan added, “I’ve put in a call with the Attorney General’s office regarding this one. I had been going back and forth with Ring’s legal department on verbiage that Florida Statutes requires to be in contracts with government agencies and we haven’t reached an agreement yet. Once I speak with my contact at the Attorney General’s Office, I’ll be ready to move on (if everything is up to snuff).”
Also in Volusia, Daytona Beach and DeLand are using the Ring program and Port Orange is in the process of signing up for it.