Police promote Ring partnerships as a way to keep communities safe. Now they’re inundated with video of people in innocent activities.
In May, police in Hammond, Indiana, got a suspicious-person alert from a concerned resident. She could see a man, she told officers, through her Ring.
The resident had already sent police another message, along with footage from her Ring app., about an earlier incident. Now the resident was even more frightened, having watched a new incident unfold on her phone through a live feed from her
She sent police the video recorded from the doorbell. Police immediately knew the man wasn’t a criminal.
“It was one of our detectives. He was going there to interview the person for whatever the situation was,” said Steve Kellogg, a public information officer for Hammond Police, adding that the cop was wearing plain clothes but had a badge around his neck. The badge was out of the Ring camera’s line of sight, but the resident would have spotted it immediately had she gone to the door, the officer added.
“He’s clearly on the camera saying he’s with the police department,” Kellogg said.
The incident is among the growing number of false alarms involving Ring cameras, which have spread around the country as police departments partner with Amazon’s smart doorbell company. False alarm calls are nothing new, but police say the Ring doorbells make it easier for citizens to report anything they find suspicious and send video for law enforcement to review.
Ring and police have promoted these partnerships on social media, often demonstrating their value by highlighting incidents in which Ring has stopped package thefts.
“The more people involved in your neighborhood watch, the safer our neighborhoods become,” Ring says on its website. “Ring connects citizens with each other and local law enforcement to make a true impact on your community.”
Ring’s limitations, however, aren’t prominently featured.
In towns where police have signed up for Ring, officers told CNET that having the extra sets of eyes in neighborhoods doesn’t mean the police are solving more crimes. In some cases, it simply means there’s more worry among residents.
At the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in May, police from Chandler, Arizona, said apps likehave prompted residents to believe crime is prevalent even though violent crime is at historic lows in the city, according to notes provided by Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who attended the conference.