AKRON, Ohio — The Akron Police Department has partnered with doorbell-camera company Ring in an effort to gain more video from homeowners and help solve crimes.
Lt. Michael Miller, a spokesperson for the department, believes the partnership will be a "game-changer."
"It's an enhancement really in some ways of neighborhood watch, if you will," Miller said. "I know the detectives are enthusiastic about utilizing this technology."
Miller said the partnership does not cost the city anything and a memorandum of understanding was recently signed with Ring, which has similar deals with hundreds of other police departments across the country.
Miller said when crimes happen, officers will have the ability to send messages through Ring's Neighbors app. Police can narrow down their request to a certain radius within a neighborhood and ask people with Ring cameras to check for video that may have captured suspects or evidence. Homeowners can deny the requests or voluntarily send in video.
"They can choose on their own, or not, to interact with us any messaging, or provide us with any footage that they would have," Miller said.
Officers have already been viewing videos on the app in the Akron area, including some that appear to show suspects trying to break into cars and a shed.
Detectives have sent out a request for neighborhood Ring video that could help solve a theft from a car on Ripley Avenue. In that case from Feb. 23, a tactical vest, Kevlar helmet and other items were stolen from a member of the military.
Miller insists the partnership is not a case of big brother watching.
"We have no monitoring of their particular device. There's no way for us to identify the particular neighbor by address or name," Miller said. "We cannot access their video, their iCloud, their personal information in any way."
The program is not without its critics. Cleveland attorney Patrick Kabat spoke with News 5 last year about the high number of police departments joining forces with Ring. He pointed out that even though Ring has permission requirements, police could find a way around that through subpoenas.
"It would be unthinkable and probably unenforceable for a company to say 'We will always refuse to comply with any law enforcement subpoena.' Why would it do that?" Kabat said.
ACLU attorney Jay Stanley, who was interviewed for that same story, also raised some potential privacy concerns.
"The question that you need to ask is whether you're empowering yourself or whether you're not accidentally empowering somebody else like the police or Amazon or hackers," Stanley said.
News 5 reached out to a spokesperson for Ring about the APD partnership, but hadn't received a response as of late Monday afternoon.
However, in a statement to the Akron Beacon Journal, Ring spokesperson Morgan Culbertson said Ring's mission is to make neighborhoods safer.
"We work towards this mission in a number of ways, including allowing local police to share official, important crime and safety updates with their residents through the free Neighbors app. Ring has designed the Neighbors app in a way that upholds our user privacy standards and keeps residents in control," Culbertson said.