There are a growing number of police departments in Connecticut that have partnered with Ring, the video surveillance company. According to law enforcement, the partnerships are designed to make it easier for police to monitor and request videos of crimes in neighborhoods.
“As technology has emerged and changed, home surveillance has become big and there has been no easy way for law enforcement to reach out to the community to do it,” said Lt. Tim Silva with the Waterford Police Department. “This app was the first thing we came across that is free to the user, free to the agency and allowed us to reach a larger group of people.”
The Waterford Police Department is one of 15 police departments in Connecticut that has partnered with Ring. Waterford partnered with the company about one year ago. They have not received any videos yet that have led to arrests, but they are hoping that more people will use the tool to help solve and fight crime in the area.
“Car break-ins, maybe the vandalism across the neighborhoods is where I think this is going to be the most beneficial to us,” said Silva.
Ring has a neighborhood watch app called “Neighbors.” Anyone, involving people who do not own Ring devices, is able to upload video to the Neighbors app. The app sends alerts if any fellow neighbors have reported crime in your general vicinity.
Through the partnership, police are able to add comments and ask questions about the videos. If the user consents, the police department is able to have access to the video for an investigation.
The police department is also able to put out a request for videos after a certain crime. For example, the Waterford Police Department wrote a post Monday informing users of the app that there has been an increase in car break-ins, requesting anyone with video to add the video to the public app or privately message the video to the department.
“Everything falls on the user. It is the user’s base to say ‘I want to share it’ or ‘I don’t want to share it’,” said Silva.
The new technology is raising privacy concerns among some groups. The American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut is asking residents to do their homework before handing video over.
“It is a technology that has proliferated very quickly. A lot of people are taking these on in the holiday season without thinking of the privacy consequences,” said David McGuire, the director of ACLU CT. “We are urging people to be aware, to ask questions. Have a full sense of awareness about what they are turning over and what it is going to be used for.”
Silva stressed that any video-use is entirely dependent upon the user’s consent. He said it is anonymous, the officers only see the users listed as “neighbor 1, neighbor 2,” etc. Silva said the app also does not give any exact locations. He compared it to an officer knocking on someone’s door.
“Somebody wants to tell us they saw something, they can tell us at the door or they can send it in the app,” said Silva. “For us, it is just the next evolutionary step in the social media platform.”
Silva also said that if someone gives them permission to use a video it will be treated as evidence and discarded after it is used in court.
Ring sent NBC Connecticut a statement Monday writing, in part, “Ring has designed the Neighbors app in a way that upholds our user standards and keeps residents in control. We’ve seen many positive examples of residents and local police engaging on the Neighbors app and believe open communication is an important step in building safer, stronger communities.”