FILE PHOTO: In this Tuesday, July 16, 2019, file photo, Ernie Field pushes the doorbell on his Ring doorbell camera at his home in Wolcott, Conn. Amazon-owned doorbell camera company Ring has been establishing partnerships with police departments around the country.
Rachel McDevitt is WITF’s host of Fresh Air and All Things Considered.
Rachel joined WITF in 2017. She previously reported for WITF’s Radio Pennsylvania Network, where her work earned the National Association of State Radio Network’s award for best feature two years in a row. The western Pennsylvania native started her journalism career with the CBS affiliate in Bridgeport, West Virginia. Rachel is a graduate of Temple University.
(Harrisburg) — Seven police departments in the midstate are partnering with the doorbell-camera company Ring in what they say is an effort to increase public safety.
But some privacy activists are raising concern over the partnerships, which were first reported by The Washington Post.
Police officials who spoke with WITF stressed, however, that participation by camera owners is voluntary and anonymous.
“Contrary to what some people might think, we cannot log on to your camera,” said James Adams, Chief of Police in Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County. “You have total control of your camera system and who you want to share it with.”
The partnership allows the agencies to send requests for video to users who belong to Ring’s Neighbors network. Police mark the location of the incident they’re investigating and Ring sends the message to users in the area. Residents don’t need a Ring-branded camera to join the network or share video.
Police across departments said they see the partnership with Ring, which is owned by Amazon, as a tool with huge potential for crime prevention and solving cases.
Sergeant Michael Piacentino with Manheim Township Police in Lancaster County said a big part of the partnership’s value is in the community outreach aspect.
“It’s simply allowing us to have a voice on their network to say, ‘hey we’re here,'” Piacentino said.
When asked about privacy concerns, Piacentino said it’s Ring’s responsibility to secure its camera network.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Pennsylvania called the partnerships “disturbing,” and said historically, police surveillance power has been disproportionately used against minorities and the formerly incarcerated.
Departments partnering with Ring are: East Pennsboro, West Shore Regional, and Upper Allen Township in Cumberland County; Newberry Township, Northern York Regional, and Penn Township in York County; and Manheim Township in Lancaster County.