Howard County police are tracking down suspects with the help of residents’ doorbells.
Since November, police have partnered with Ring, a doorbell camera company that provides access to footage from the homes of people who have a doorbell camera.
The Neighbors app provides community members and police with access to view photos, videos and other safety information from residents who have the doorbell cameras.
Howard County was the first police jurisdiction in Maryland to begin using the Neighbors app, according to the police department.
Ring has video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police and sheriff departments across the United States.
“At Ring, we believe that when communities work together, safer neighborhoods become a reality — that’s why we created the Neighbors app — we wanted to easily facilitate conversations around crime and safety among all members of the community, and we invited local law enforcement agencies to contribute to those discussions,” according to the company’s website.
The videos and real-time safety alerts are posted anonymously by residents’ neighbors and local police.
When asked if there’s a concentrated area of doorbell cameras in the county, Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman, said in an email, “They are spread out and police do not know the residences where they are located. Anyone who has useful video has to voluntarily provide it to [the] police.”
Law enforcement can submit requests to have access to community members’ video recordings to help with active investigations, according to Ring.
Howard police have used doorbell videos in several cases, including the arrest of two 13-year-old teens who allegedly stole a package from a Columbia home’s front door and an unidentified male taking a package from a home in Laurel.
There are seven Maryland police and sheriff’s departments that use the program. Apart from Howard, the other jurisdictions are Anne Arundel County, Bowie, Harford County, Frederick, Calvert County and Prince George’s County, according to a map on Ring’s website.
The app is free and anyone can download it, regardless of owning a doorbell camera.
Jess Nocera is a reporter for the Howard County Times. She covers education, crime and the court system. Previously, Jess was a reporter for the Bristol Herald Courier. A University of Maryland graduate, Jess received a degree in journalism and government and politics and wrote for The Diamondback, Capital News Service and interned with McClatchy.