Middletown Police Department is the latest of more than 400 police departments nationwide to enter an agreement with Amazon's Ring doorbell surveillance to allow the police to extract video from product owners in the town. But only if residents give the police permission first.
Middletown police officers no longer need to ring your doorbell to ask for your help in crime investigations.
Middletown Police Department is the latest of more than 400 police departments nationwide to enter an agreement with Amazon’s Ring doorbell surveillance to allow the police to extract video from product owners in the town.
At the Mayor and Town Council meeting Monday, Chief Robert Kracyla requested approval for a program that would give the police access to video surveillance from residents who use Ring, but only if given permission from the user.
“We could instead of knocking on your door and asking you ‘Can we look at your Ring doorbell video,’ we would be able to access that video because you have granted us permission to go ahead and look,” Kracyla said.
Town Council members expressed concerns about privacy issues with the new agreement, but Kracyla stressed that they cannot access the video without the consent of the owner, whether they are a current or a new user.
Capt. Bill Texter said that Ring owners can download a free application or Ring’s app Neighbors to grant permission.
“If you don’t grant the permission through the app or when you sign up with Ring, we can’t see it,” Texter said.
Once a Ring owner grants permission for the police department to have access to the video surveillance, the department can extract video for any investigation, whether the doorbell owner is personally involved or not, the police said.
Ring owners can download a free application from Ring’s website or on the company’s Neighbors app to grant permission through the company’s Neighbors portal, Texter said. Community members can say no to police access but can still post videos up on this portal themselves.
The Neighbors app allows community members to post crime or anything unusual going on in their neighborhoods. The Neighbors portal is an extension of the app that allows law enforcement to update the community, according to Ring’s website.
In the portal, police can post information about crime and safety events, comment on public posts, ask for help on investigations or submit requests for video recordings.
“This is going to be a great asset for the Middletown Police Department,” Kracyla said.
In late August, Ring released a map that shows all the city police departments from 40 states that have entered a similar agreement -- one that adjusts the memorandum of understanding with Ring.
Although Middletown Police Department took this to the town council to be approved, not all communities across the country did. According to multiple reports, some departments entered the agreement with Amazon without bringing it to a city council open forum for community members to address concerns.
Because the agreement does not involve any new financial terms, city councils are not required to approve the new terms.
Community members in the open forum addressed privacy concerns with the general public gaining access to the videos. Town Solicitor Scott Chambers said that the video would only be used for police investigation purposes that wouldn’t allow the video to be displayed to the public.
“You’re still under Ring’s security and privacy agreement,” Chambers said.
The town council unanimously voted to allow the police to enter this program, and residents can now grant police access to their doorbell surveillance.