As home security cameras become more common in San Diego, law enforcement agencies are hoping to utilize these devices in a new, optional program to keep neighborhoods safe.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the police departments in Carlsbad, La Mesa, and Oceanside, are teaming up with the home surveillance company Ring to keep an eye on their districts. The Chula Vista Police Department is currently waiting for approval.
Ring products, like its video doorbells that can detect motion and record round-the-clock surveillance, may help solve and deter crimes if law enforcement agencies have access to specific footage.
The surveillance company will allow users to voluntarily opt into its program called Neighbors, where they can upload any suspicious photos or footage.
“It is really there for the whole community to see, and at that point, we can look through and see if it’s matching any of the trends in our community for crime,” said Theresa Adams-Hydar with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Though some privacy advocates said they’re concerned about possible threats of spying and data breaches.
According to the program, law enforcement officials will not have access to users’ cameras directly but only the select items that a user chooses to upload to Neighbors. The program has a separate app from the Ring app on smart phones, and any surveillance programs can upload to it.
Additionally, opponents of the program cite the possibility of facial recognition in future Ring products as a cause for alarm. At this time, no Ring products have that capability.
“If and when that does come online, that is something we would look at, evaluate and really have that conversation on the pros and cons,” Adams-Hydar said.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has been using Neighbors for the past month.
Ring, which is owned by Amazon, provided the following statement to NBC 7.
“Ring partners with law enforcement agencies to help make neighborhoods safer. We’re proud of these partnerships but have also taken care to design them in a way that keeps our users in control. Every decision we make at Ring centers around privacy, security and user control. While law enforcement partners can submit video requests for footage in a given area when investigating an active case, Ring facilitates these requests and user consent is required in order for any footage to be shared. Law enforcement cannot see how many Ring users received the request or who declined to share. We’ve seen many positive examples of Neighbors users and law enforcement engaging on the Neighbors app and believe open communication is an important step in building safer, stronger communities.”