Video-doorbell maker Ring now works with more than 2,000 police and fire departments across the United States, reports the Verge (opens in new tab), quoting a paywalled report in the Financial Times (opens in new tab).
In 2020, 1,189 police and fire departments joined Ring's Neighbors Public Safety Service, which lets officials request Ring video feeds from residents of their jurisdictions. This program also lets departments broadcast public safety advisories through Ring's Neighbors smartphone app.
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That's a pretty striking uptick in growth, according to the Verge. Only 703 public-safety departments signed up for Neighbors in 2019, and only 40 signed up in 2018.
The Neighbors app is separate from the regular Ring smartphone app, and you don't have to be a Ring owner to use the Neighbors app. Amazon bought the Ring company in 2018.
The Neighbors app's Google Play page seems to double down on suburban fears. One screenshot displays a sketchy guy in a backyard with the words "This guy was just casing my house, watch out!" Another image implores users to "work with Neighbors and law enforcement to reduce crime."
Left-leaning privacy groups have been bashing Ring for years for working closely with police. One group has gone so far as to pester Tom's Guide and other tech publications to rescind their recommendations of Ring video doorbells.
We're not going to do that. Ring video doorbells do a fine job as video doorbells. Furthermore, the much-publicized wave of Ring "hacks" in 2019 happened because many Ring customers didn't follow the directions and instead reused old passwords.
The doorbells themselves don't automatically feed video to the Man. It's up to Ring doorbell owners to decide whether to install the Neighbors app, or take the next step of letting local police view their archived Ring video clips.
How to see if your local cops or firemen view Ring feeds
If you own a Ring video doorbell or use the Neighbors app, you can see whether your local police, sheriff's or fire departments participate in the Neighbors Public Safety Service.
All you need to do is to go to Ring's Active Agency Map at https://support.ring.com/hc/en-us/articles/360035402811-Active-Law-Enforcement-Map (opens in new tab).
There, you'll find a Google Map, overlaid with all the local public-safety departments that have signed up for Ring's program. The map also tells you how many video requests to Ring doorbell owners were made by that department in the last three months of 2020. A full-screen version of the map is here (opens in new tab).
Who is, and isn't, part of the program
If we take a look at the Los Angeles basin on the map, for example, we can see that the Los Angeles Police Department has not signed up with Ring, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has.
The police departments of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Inglewood, Hawthorne, El Segundo, Gardena, Torrance, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach have also signed up with Ring. However, in Manhattan Beach, it's the fire department that's part of the program.
In Tom's Guide's hometown of New York City, neither the NYPD nor the New York City Fire Department are part of the Neighbors program. But there's a blue badge in the middle of Brooklyn that indicates that the "Sea Gate Police Department" does participate in Ring's feed.
Confused that maybe a new municipality had been set up overnight in New York City, Tom's Guide did some Googling. We discovered that the Sea Gate P.D. is a 25-member private police force that patrols a gated community near Coney Island.
Last year, an NYPD officer sued the Sea Gate P.D. (opens in new tab) after he said a Sea Gate officer tried to arrest him outside the gated community.