To fight crime Wilton Manors is turning to smart home technology.
At the April 14 commission meeting, Wilton Manors Police Chief Gary Blocker announced the department had struck a deal with Ring, a home security company.
“This partnership looks to assist our public safety efforts in making our community safer,” Blocker told the commissioners.
Ring was invented by Jamie Siminoff, who first pitched the idea of a video doorbell to investors on the ABC entrepreneurial reality show “Shark Tank.” In 2018, Amazon acquired Ring for an estimated value between $1.2 to $1.8 billion. It was Amazon’s second-biggest acquisition behind Whole Foods.
The idea is a simple one to follow. With cameras connected to doorbells, lights and other exterior fixtures on homes, operators can remotely use surveillance to detect and deter crime. If an incident occurs, Ring users can then turn over footage to the cops.
“Our police department can monitor posts of suspicious or criminal activity posted by Ring users on Ring’s neighbors portal,” Blocker said. “This will assist us in our search for investigative leads as well as monitoring and assessing neighborhood safety measures.”
The new partnership provides an open channel of communication between residents and investigators, Blocker said.
“Our police department can also message Ring users regarding incidents that we are investigating and these users are provided an opportunity to work with us to provide information or video footage related to those incidents that are occurring in our community,” Blocker said.
There are, however, stipulations in the contract, Blocker said.
“It does not provide WMPD real-time access or ability to obtain recorded video without owner’s consent,” he said.
Partnerships between Ring and law enforcement agencies are nothing new. More than 200 law enforcement agencies had signed up with Ring, according to a 2019 report by Vice. The article revealed the Lakeland Police Department received 15 free doorbell cameras from Ring and was offered incentives to get residents to download Ring’s Neighbors app.
“It’s proven successful in other jurisdictions,” Blocker said. “We’re quite confident it will be proven a success here.”
No commissioner questioned Blocker after his announcement. Mayor Scott Newton offered a short and positive remark.
“I think it will help the community be safer and if we have criminals here get them quicker,” Newton said.
In a March 2021 report, the New York Times noted that when someone signs up with Ring they are automatically enrolled in the Neighbors program. In the article Ring defended its right to share customer footage, “to prevent physical or other harm or financial loss,” or when “in connection with an investigation of suspected or actual illegal activity,” the company told The Times.
The article quoted the ACLU of Southern California stating there are no federal privacy regulations to cover the use of home security cameras. However, San Francisco, Oakland and Somerville, Massachusetts have banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and city governments.