Two years ago, a shooting in the north end of Baldwin Borough left police with little to go on.
The suspects took off on foot, running through multiple streets before fleeing the area by car.
Baldwin Borough police Officer Keith Hagan spent a day walking the streets looking for evidence, a job made more difficult as there were no cameras in the area to capture the crime.
Hagan set out to change that.
For the last two years, Hagan has worked to secure funding and support of state leaders in an effort to provide doorbell cameras at a discounted rate for Baldwin Borough residents. Thus far, the project has placed 186 Ring brand doorbell cameras in Baldwin, with another 100 people on a waiting list.
“We expect that it will be a valuable tool for us when solving a crime,” Hagan said.
Baldwin Borough is a mostly residential community. Unlike some other neighborhoods, it isn’t lined with businesses equipped with cameras, Hagan said. However, he also knew not all residents could afford the cost of a doorbell camera.
Ring brand cameras cost $200 for the device then $3 a month for service.
Hagan was able to secure a $5,000 grant to offset the initial cost of 50 devices to sell them to residents for only $40.
He posted an announcement on the police department’s Facebook page and within six hours had 76 requests.
“It’s a great program,” Mayor David Depretis said. “The more eyes you have out there, the better off we will be.”
The emails kept pouring in over the next few days. Every day, another 10 to 15 people wanted cameras.
Hagan started getting calls from other municipal leaders asking, “How are you doing this?”
The initial 50 devices were distributed in April.
Knowing the demand for more existed, Hagan sought more funding. With the help of state Reps. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, and Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, he was able to secure state funding through Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, and private funding sources totaling $15,000.
In all, his efforts yielded another 136 devices that have been sold to Baldwin residents at a discounted rate. Hagan is determined to find funding to offset the cost of the additional 100 devices on the waiting list.
The Ring doorbell cameras can replace a traditional doorbell and hook up to a home’s wiring or use a battery. They are activated through motion sensor and record whenever there is movement near the home or yard. Each person can set the depth for how far they want to activate the device.
The camera’s use is not limited to when a crime is occurring. Homeowners can get alerts on their phones when their doorbells ring and even answer their doors from the phone, talking through the device to the person on the other side.
Baldwin police do not have access to what is recording on the device.
However, Ring has an app, Neighbors, that allows users to upload videos from their neighborhoods and share them with others in their community.
“They can post a video into the Neighbors app, ‘FYI, this guy came to my door. He looked suspicious. Be on the lookout!’” Hagan said.
Baldwin Borough police this month joined the app and can see all of the videos being posted in the area. Beyond the homes with discounted cameras, hundreds of others have them as well, Hagan said.
If a crime is committed in the area, police can ask people in a certain radius if they would be willing to share any video they have.
Ring also monitors the videos on the app and marks them as “suspicious activity” or “criminal.”
“It’s a very beneficial program for our department,” police Chief Tony Cortazzo said. “We’ve put a lot of time into the program. It allows us to put extra eyes into the community that assists us with investigations.”
To sign up for the free app text baldwinborough to 555888 or email at [email protected]