Florida Police Department Partners With Ring to Fight Crime

The partnership between Fort Walton Beach Police Department and smart home company Ring Inc. may become the norm for law enforcement, acting as a digital neighborhood watch to promote vigilance for suspicious activity.

by Tony Adame, Northwest Florida Daily News / January 6, 2020
Ring

(TNS) — It's still in its early stages, but the partnership between the Fort Walton, Fla., Beach Police Department and home security/smart home company Ring Inc. could become the norm for law enforcement sooner than later.

And that's not just here. That's everywhere.

"We're in the really early stages of partnering with Ring," said FWB Police Chief Robert Bage. "So we haven't received the 'smoking gun' video yet, so to speak, but we have sent in several video requests and gotten responses back really quickly, which I think is a good sign."

Ring, which was purchased by Amazon in 2018 for a whopping $1 billion, has become the go-to source for home installation features that coordinate with their app to bring a new level of home security to customers at an affordable price.

Home devices for Ring products start around $100, with the doorbell feature that gives you sound and video being the most popular of their products.

So far, the FWB Police have been the only agency in the area to partner with Ring. In Bay County, the Panama City Beach Police Department was one of the first in Florida to partner with Ring, and the Panama City Police Department also has a partnership.

"I think there's a bit of a misnomer in the mainstream media about (Ring)," Bage said. "We can't access your Ring camera directly without your permission, and we can't access your camera live. The only way we get it is if you physically choose to send it."

The FWB Police couldn't just jump into the ring with Ring without the usual steps; they had to attend several community meetings to ask questions and have posted to their social media accounts with graphics explaining what the relationship entails.

Ring provides a "law enforcement portal" online that lets police departments log in and send requests to Ring users asking to share a video in the event of a crime. If a user wants to never be asked for another video by the police, they have that option.

"When I worked in Miami, we had an agreement with Ring previously, so I was familiar with what they do," Bage said. "Not to be too cynical about it, but it does help Ring out because it promotes their product when we have an agreement with them and announce that publicly.

"On the other side, anything we can put in our toolbox that helps us attack crime is a benefit to us. And this is another tool."

Neighbors by Ring is the app users can download to their phones and that the FWB Police has their official partnership with. It's essentially a digital neighborhood watch where users can draw up to a 5-mile geo-fence around their location to see what videos have been uploaded by Ring users and what crimes or suspicious activities are being reported in the area.

You don't even have to own a Ring device to access the app or its features.

"(Ring) wants to establish a virtual crime watch, and they have a device with an easy way to post to a community forum," Bage said. "Again, we can see what videos people post, just like everyone else, and we don't have the direct address, either, without permission.

"A lot of time, when there's a crime in a neighborhood, we will go door-to-door looking for videos. This makes that process a lot quicker, hopefully, and also so we don't have to be at your house. I think it's a good thing to have (the app), because if anything it's hopefully going to make people a little more conscious about what's going on in their neighborhoods."

©2020 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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