Police look to doorbell cameras to reduce crime
Through a community network of doorbell cameras, officials in Winnebago County, Illinois, hope to get faster notification of suspicious activity and improve criminal investigations.
To help police solve crimes and give homeowners an added sense of security, an Illinois county will devote $40,000 of its American Rescue Plan funds to purchasing doorbell cameras for the community.
Winnebago County will become the latest district to turn to Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras to “get out in front of crime, and prevent it … instead of always just following it up,” Public Safety Chairman Burt Gerl told WIFR News. Eventually, the county plans to target areas with higher crime rates, he said.
The county also expects to make use of Ring’s public safety app, Neighbors. Through the app, residents can connect with local law enforcement to share real-time information about suspicious activity.
Ring has developed partnerships for its network of home security cameras with about 1,800 police departments and signed agreements with at least 350 fire departments. Under a new program with Elmira, N.Y., hundreds of doorbell cameras will be given to homeowners in high crime areas. When residents see a suspicious activity on their camera’s video, they can send a link to the police that grants officials access to the video. Battle Creek, Mich., also has plans to give out 500 free Ring doorbell systems.
Public safety officials use the Neighbors Public Safety Service interface to connect, communicate and share updates with their communities. It allows officials to see and comment on publicly posted content from the Neighbors App feed, share posts and manage voluntarily shared video recordings, according to the Ring website.
Law enforcement agencies can see videos posted to the Neighbors app or directly request video from residents in the area of an active investigation. Police must reference a relevant case in the request, each request must specify a limited time frame and area and residents can decide how much information they are willing to share. Authorities are not given direct access to residents’ devices, videos, location or any personally identifiable information.
Still, Amazon’s partnerships with law enforcement agencies, especially in relation to community surveillance, have drawn concerns from some civil liberties advocates.
Gerl said Winnebago County plans to start the program in about 90 days and expects the installation of 2,000 cameras will help deter criminal activity and assist police with investigations.
“It might not be able to prevent every crime and stop crime,” Gerl said. “But eventually criminals are going to know that these neighborhoods are being watched.”