Police say Ring video-sharing partnership has helped solve crimes
Two Western Pennsylvania police departments that have established partnerships with the doorbell-camera company Ring said the alliance has helped them solve crimes and benefited their communities.
Baldwin Borough and Castle Shannon police are among roughly 400 police forces across the United States that have partnered with the Amazon-owned company, giving them access to homeowners’ camera footage, The Washington Post reported.
“It’s been a good program for us,” said Baldwin Borough police Chief Anthony Cortazzo.
The partnerships let police request videos recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area as part of their investigations, The Post reported.
Castle Shannon police Chief Ken Truver said police request videos through Ring’s free, crime-focused companion app, Neighbors, which allows people to post information about crime or safety concerns in their community.
If there are incidents — such as vehicle break-ins in a particular neighborhood — police can go on the app and let people living in that area know they are looking for information and asking them to contact the police department if they have any, he said.
“We’ve used it in a drug investigation, a criminal mischief incident,” Truver said.
Cortazzo said the technology also has helped his department solve crimes.
“We haven’t solved any major crimes, but we’re solving vehicles getting broken into or suspicious people at night,” he said. “It’s been a handy tool for law enforcement. One of our biggest issues when we’re trying to do investigations is lack of witnesses. This is just a chance for the community to be involved in that and to be part of the investigative process.”
North Huntingdon police Chief Robert Rizzo said he just learned about the potential service assisting local police departments and is eager to learn more.
“I am definitely interested in finding out more information, if it will be beneficial and how we will go about obtaining the video footage. I’m am going to look into it,” Rizzo said.
Allegheny Township police Chief Duane Fisher equates the technology to a “modern version of the neighborhood watch.”
He said he is “all for it.”
“It’s no different than if people would have signed up in the past and participated. Now they’re doing the same thing just like we do with community overview cameras and license plate mirrors,” he said. “They’re just using technology to make themselves a force multiplier in an effort to make their communities safer.”
Legal experts and privacy advocates expressed concerns to The Post about how the technology could threaten civil liberties, turn residents into informants and subject innocent people to greater surveillance and potential risk.
Neither Cortazzo nor Truver believe there is cause for that.
Truver said the technology is no different than someone looking out their front door and calling the police if they see something suspicious.
“I don’t think there’s a privacy concern there,” Truver said. “It’s a camera. It’s on the front door or it’s somewhere where people can see it. I encourage people to put signs out there: ‘If you don’t want to be on my camera, don’t come to my front door.’”
Cortazzo said police don’t have access to people’s Ring devices, so they can’t access someone’s camera anytime they want. Videos have to be shared with them.
Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via e-mail, according to The Post.
The chiefs said a nice thing about the app is that it isn’t just limited to Ring. Anyone can use it regardless of what security system they may have.
“You can have a Ring device or a doorbell device and join this app, or you can be just a resident of the community and you set your area where you want to get alerts to,” Cortazzo said.
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .