CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - What was once a friendly device to let people know you're on their doorstep has become a powerful crime-fighting tool.
Doorbells with cameras and microphones allow you to talk with someone on your doorstep. They can also help you catch a criminal in the act.
Now, the Clearwater Police Department is teaming up with one video doorbell manufacturer to help fight neighborhood crime.
The makers of the Ring doorbell have created an app called Neighbors. People in a small radius can connect there, sharing crime information, suspicious encounters and most importantly, video from their doorbell cameras. Tuesday, Clearwater Police announced they're joining forces to help strengthen this new digital neighborhood watch.
"What we are seeing now is, as more people know about this technology, would-be burglars or criminals would actually leave the property before trying something if they know they are on camera or they think someone might be home," said August Cziment, Ring Director of Operations
Tuesday, members of the Clearwater Police Department were trained on how to use the Neighbors app as another tool in solving crimes. About 2,000 homes in Clearwater have the Ring app. That's not including homeowners who have installed other video devices at their front doors.
"Instead of having five cops in the neighborhood, we can have 500 cops in the neighborhood, if whoever has a doorbell and if they are willing to share with us," said Lt. Michael Walek. "It’s an extra set of eyes. It’s great new technology to help us bring everybody together to solve cases."
This case might ring a bell. May 2, Clearwater Police shared video of three teens breaking into a home. The doorbell camera got a close-up of Kevin King, whose mother recognized him and turned him in.
"I was heartbroken because I know I didn't raise him like that," King's mother Sandra Green told FOX 13.
With the Neighbors app, police will be able to spend less time searching for surveillance and more time searching for suspects.
"It’s kind of a process that’s going to evolve to where we have the ability to reach out to people as well and they can volunteer stuff to us," Walek said.
Page Pittman has his video doorbell up and running. "I can see what’s going on at my house and I don’t have to worry about, was that somebody that I expected or was it somebody I didn’t expect," Pittman said.
The thought of helping police solve crimes, one door at a time has a nice ring to it.
"I think it's great," Pittman said. "I think they can't have eyes and ears everywhere and now that we can have security devices like this that can record whether or not somebody is doing something wrong or not, and you can upload it and send it to an authority or you can send it to your neighbor, I think it's fantastic."
Anyone can download the free Neighbors by Ring app. You do not have to be a Ring member to upload video, pictures or comment.
Representatives from Ring told us that the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and Tampa Police are also getting on board.