With video footage playing an increasingly important role in crime-solving, the Westminster Police Department has teamed up with Ring security company to implement an innovative tool to help encourage dialogue between the agency and community, as well as video sharing.
“We truly wanted to be an app that reduces crime,” said Ring Senior Account Manager Andrea Han during a webinar March 21 with several members of the agency that will be involved in heading up implementation in the various departments. Ring is a home security company that has become well known for its Video Doorbell technology that allows for live video front-door surveillance and two-way communication.
Han, via teleconference, gave a basic training during the webinar of how the Ring Neighborhood Portal app works. The mission is two-fold, according to Han, to allow the WPD to communicate directly with members of the Westminster community, as well as giving officers the ability to request video submissions from Ring device owners in specific areas of the city around where a crime may have occurred.
“It really provides a way to cast a wide net,” Han said during her call.
The app, which is free for the public to download and is akin to a social media platform, allows community members to view and post crime- and safety-themed comments and photos from their cell phones.
“It’ll definitely be a helpful tool,” Commander Darin Upstill told Behind the Badge.
On the WPD end, officers and command staff are able to post safety tips as well as crime-related information, including requests for video submissions in an area where a crime occurred. The Ring device video is sent anonymously via the app and is completely voluntary for residents to submit.
“The more civilians that are on it, the more effective and powerful,” said Han.
The agency is well aware of what an important tool video footage has become in crime fighting. Commander Alan Iwashita told Behind the Badge that video evidence provided leads that were instrumental in solving a local homicide in 2017. In 2018, the agency launched its first video submission platform called Command Central. Residents who voluntarily register their surveillance cameras are stored in the online system for WPD officers to search when a crime takes place nearby. Officers can then request surveillance footage of these residents to potentially help identify suspects and solve crimes.
“We’ll be using both,” said Iwashita of the video submission tools. “[Video is] essential to most of our investigations.”