DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A partnership between DeKalb County police and a popular home security company would allow officers to monitor security video posted on the company’s phone application.
The Board of Commissioners could pass a resolution allowing DeKalb police to monitor security videos uploaded to doorbell security system Ring’s neighbor portal. Residents can upload videos showing potential criminal activity in their community.
The resolution saw sweeping support at a DeKalb public safety committee meeting Thursday but raised concerns about “unintended consequences.”
The vote is expected during Tuesday’s commissioners meeting and if approved could make DeKalb the first jurisdiction in Georgia to partner with the company, which has already joined with police departments in Florida, Texas and California.
There is no cost associated with the partnership and aside from an increased number of users, Ring doesn’t see any money, according to an Oct. 28 drafted agreement. Committee chair and Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson said she liked the idea of the program but raised concerns about its “intrusive” nature.
“I see the benefit, but I also understand the unintended consequences of having something like this that can affect our children,” she said.
Johnson said she is particularly concerned about the racial profiling of young black men who may be in town visiting relatives and aren’t known by their relatives’ neighbors.
Incidents of “existing while black” made headlines last year following several high-profile reports in which African-Americans had been accosted or had the police called on them for merely sitting in a coffee shop, barbecuing in a park or taking a nap on a college dormitory couch.
“Just like with neighborhood watch, it’s a good tool to assist police,” Johnson said, “but we want to make sure we’re mindful of the safety of our residents and their families.”
Ring spokesman Morgan Culbertson told the AJC there are gray areas when people see something they suspect is a crime but isn’t.
“If (a video) is not legit and someone complains, they can flag it and we can review it,” she said. “If it doesn’t meet our standards we can take it down.”
DeKalb police Chief James Conroy said the department will access the validity of alleged crimes in the videos similar to how they would ones posted on Facebook and other social media platforms.
“Any video that will be downloaded can only be downloaded by the officer if it is reasonably considered as part of an investigation,” Conroy said at the meeting.
As part of the program, the company will give DeKalb police 70 Ring cameras to disperse among county residents and will donate more based on the number of app downloads that result from the program, according to a draft of the agreement.
The partnership is part of a growing trend among police departments with video security companies to reduce crime. In Brookhaven, police can view resident-submitted private security footage to monitor crime as part of their Operation Plugged In program. Residents submit their video, often showing crime in public spaces such as sidewalks and roads, to an online portal.
Acworth police launched a similar program in August.
Culbertson said the company is in talks to bring the partnership to other Georgia jurisdictions, but declined to say which ones.
The agreement would prohibit Ring from giving police a customer’s personal information, including videos, without consent of the owner, a subpoena or search warrant.
The Board of Commissioners will hold its meeting 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Manual J. Malouf Auditorium. If the board approves, the partnership will last for a year with the option to renew for an additional two years.
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