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Ring modernizes the neighborhood watch with its Neighbors app

May 09, 20183 mins
Internet of ThingsSecurity

Residents can use Ring's Neighbors app to report 'suspicious' people and activities, while police departments can use it to share real-time crime alerts with communities.

rings neighbors app
Credit: Ring

A couple months after Amazon spent more than $1 billion to acquire the smart doorbell company Ring, Ring has launched the crime-reporting platform Neighbors app meant for reporting suspicious people and activities. You don’t need Ring hardware to join this new version of the neighborhood watch that cops across the U.S. will also be joining.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is one of the first network partners. According to CNN Money, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione suggested the Neighbors app “could help officers solve burglaries faster because the department can use the app instead of going door to door.”

“It’s an increase in the eyes and ears, and I think it’s welcome,” says Maglione. “Everybody nationwide is pushing the ‘if you see something, say something’ way of thinking.”

Fort Lauderdale is not the only police force with access to the crime-reporting platform; Ventura Sheriff’s Department and Orlando’s police department do, too. A Ring spokesperson told Motherboard, “Over the next days and weeks, law enforcement across the U.S. will be joining Neighbors.”

“Work with neighbors and law enforcement to reduce crime,” says one the screenshots for the app. Below that is a “suspicious” person with a note from “Deputy Carlson” asking for people who recognize the man to contact the cops.

“People are in their neighborhood less than they were 50 years ago,” Jamie Siminoff, the founder of Ring, told CNN. “The Neighbors app brings presence back into the neighborhood.”

“Neighbors is meant to facilitate real-time communication between” neighbors, the Ring team, and law enforcement, “while maintaining neighbor privacy first and foremost,” said Siminoff.

The press release goes on to add, “Police and sheriff’s departments throughout the U.S. are also joining the network as a new way to share real-time crime and safety alerts with their communities.”

In addition to receiving push notifications about potential security issues, app users can see recent crime and safety posts uploaded by their neighbors, the Ring team and local law enforcement via an interactive map. If a neighbor notices suspicious activity in their area, they can post their own text, photo or video and alert the community to proactively prevent crime.

Neighbors isn’t the first to go the route of trying to create a modern neighborhood watch. Nextdoor has been around for years, but it had problems with racial profiling — people being reported as “suspicious” based on their race.

According to CNN:

Siminoff doesn’t think Ring will run into similar issues in part because the posts are based on actual footage or photos. The company has moderators on staff to review any flagged posts.

“Video makes what’s happening much clearer, so you don’t have to describe the scene. Describing the scene … can create those biases,” said Siminoff.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.