(TNS) — PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — The Panama City Beach Police Department is getting neighbors involved in fighting crime right from their doorsteps with the help of a new pilot program.
The department is urging residents to use an app called "Neighbors" and Ring devices to boost their neighborhood safety.
"I like it when the neighborhood and community get involved in fighting crime because it's not just law enforcement," Chief Drew Whitman said while announcing PCBPD's use of the app. "They have the whole community helping."
Ring is a home security organization that created a popular video doorbell, and the company now has launched Neighbors. The app provides users with real-time crime and safety alerts from residents, law enforcement and Ring officials. It also provides users a way to post information about community gatherings and more. The Neighbors app is free, but users have to pay for the Ring device.
"If we have a crime that occurs, we contact Ring," Whitman said. "They put out the message for us saying we had a crime at this time in this area."
He said people are able to share footage from their Ring devices with their neighbors and police, and that video might lead to clues or an arrest in a crime. He said users can remain anonymous, or choose not to share video footage through the app.
The Ring device has high-definition quality and produces a great picture, Whitman said. The device's voice activation allows people to speak to anyone who approaches their door, all while sitting in a different location away from their homes.
In fact, the device already has helped Beach police track down a criminal.
"We had an individual who had the Ring device," Whitman said. "They sent us a video of someone at their front door, where they were trying to break in and stole some shoes. The video was crystal clear. We identified the guy, picked him up the same night, and he had the merchandise he stole off the porch."
He said Ring can help people identify vehicles or people who happen to pass through a neighborhood. Whitman also said it's useful for parents who would like to know if their children made it home from school safely.
Whitman said Panama City Beach joins departments in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami that have used the tools. He said he's not sure if any other departments in Bay County have used the technology.
"'We're trying to keep our community safe, our visitors safe and definitely our residents safe," Whitman said. "I'm not endorsing the product. I'm endorsing the concept of fighting crime."
©2018 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.