Residents, police can work together using Ring doorbell footage

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 10, 2019


FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council approved a memorandum to allow the Police Department to seek approval from residents to use Ring security footage to solve crimes.

Approved at the council’s Aug. 26 meeting, the Police Department now can request videos from Ring doorbells owned by residents to see if they captured criminal activity from a nearby crime.

According to city documents, the low cost of home security cameras over the years has resulted in an increase of security systems. This, along with people posting videos of criminal activity online and taking an active role in protecting their communities, led to the memorandum.

On how the requests would work, Ferndale Police Sgt. Baron Brown said they would send an email through the Ring app to a particular neighborhood or radius of homes and explain about a crime that occurred during a specific time period. The request would ask people to check their recordings and — if they are able to find someone engaging in suspicious activity — allow police to view the footage.

The police would have access to videos through a portal granted to them by Ring.

Brown referenced how residents have done this on their own in the past, noting that footage has helped police find the perpetrator of multiple car break-ins on Ferndale’s west side because they recognized how the perpetrator had walked.

“We had dealt with him so many times that several officers knew exactly who that is, and later on in the week we ended up catching him doing the same kind of crime,” he said. “It is as respectful of people’s privacy as we can make it, but it is also very important because there is some recent high-profile crimes that have occurred in Ferndale that we could’ve used that footage, if any existed.”

Residents are not required to share any of their Ring footage with police, as the option to do so is voluntary.

Brown said police will never use this option to proactively try and locate fugitives who are unknown to them.

“This is going to be a reactive request for footage versus a proactive use of it where we’re seeking people in a way that may be considered a threat to privacy,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pawlica thinks the program is great, as it isn’t something residents are required to participate in and could be helpful to police in terms of identifying suspects.

“I have one (Ring doorbell) myself, and I think it’s going to be very beneficial to the Police Department,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t think it’s going to be something used on a daily basis or even on a weekly basis.”