The Chicago Police Department (CPD) 22nd District is one of two participating in a new pilot program through Ring, a national company offering systems for home security.
Officials said the program enables police officials to improve their efforts to fight crime.
Using the smartphone app Neighbors and the Ring video doorbell system, users can post reports online about crimes, and the program provides local police with a listing of nearby Ring users, instead of officers needing to visit nearby homes to locate cameras with potentially helpful video footage to solve a crime.
The program launched on Sept. 2, and CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said it is effective and also protects the identity of Ring users.
“The detectives now, instead of leaving the office, walking blocks and blocks, and squinting to see if somebody has a camera or doesn’t have a camera, they will be able to pull up … like a heat map, and it just shows that [for example] within these three-block radius, there’s 14 Ring cameras,” Deenihan said.
“It doesn’t give a name. It doesn’t give an address. It’s anonymous. It’s all done through Ring. The detectives are able to send those customers an email stating that a burglary occurred at this date and time—‘Would you please share your video with me? I’m looking for 20 minutes of video—date, time and location.’ The customer can share it with the detective. It’s, overall, just much more efficient.”
Deenihan said the partnership will help solve serious crimes such as shootings as well as less serious crimes such as thefts of packages from residential porches.
After the announcement last year about the formation of the pilot program, a news outlet reported that, for each request of videos from Ring, the CPD must provide a case number, timeframe and location.
Ring officials said police can’t see customers’ identifying information, and customers can decline requests from police. Only the owner can access a livestream video.
The 12th District, in the Near West neighborhood, is also participating.
For those using the Neighbors app, which is similar to other social media in that it lists a newsfeed of alleged crimes, they will receive messages from police requesting information.
Neighbors is operated by Ring—not the CPD—and its usage is “strictly about public safety,” Deenihan said. Posts will also announce other neighborhood concerns—like lost pets. People who want to access Neighbors do not need a Ring video system, but those with the video system automatically receive access to Neighbors.
Deenihan said the program is a hyper-local approach to fighting crime.
“It’s more sharing of information between the community and the police to effectively build those relationships, build more trust and, at the same time, remove some of these bad guys from the street to make that community safer,” he said.
“It’s all done by geocoding. … If you live in the 22nd District and you live in the Morgan Park community, you’re not going to be getting information on something that’s happening downtown or on the North Side. You’re just going to get specific information.”
Ben Farnandis, a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) beat facilitator in the Morgan Park district of the CPD, said the Ring video system, which he uses, is “such an asset to the community.”
He praised Neighbors because it can also be used to post information about beat meetings, church events and school activities. He said the app also protects the privacy of users.
“Being anonymous is such an asset because you don’t have to give your address; you don’t have to do anything [personal],” he said. “And, of course, the affiliation with the police department is very important because they’ll be able to post pictures of incidents of crime.
“For example, if there’s a robbery and someone with a Ring doorbell has a picture, they’ll be able to post that in Neighbors. … We can seek information from the community just from that picture.”
Being selected for the pilot program is important for 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea, and he credited the 22nd District CAPS office for its strong relationships with schools and civic associations as a fundamental reason the district was selected for the program.
“I’m really excited about this rollout and that they’re starting here,” O’Shea said. “Obviously, this is empowering the community. It’s helping the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and the community. But, the fact that we have such a strong outreach from the CAPS office here, it’s a logical start to do it here.”
O’Shea said he plans to reach out to local institutions to promote the program because he believes systems such as Ring are effective.
“When bad guys are looking for an opportunity, selecting a home to commit a crime, whether that be a vehicle or a residence, when they see a camera,” he said, “they move on. They go to the next house; they go to the next block.
“I think it’s a strong defense mechanism.”