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Ga. law enforcement agencies say Ring doorbell camera policy change won’t inhibit investigations

“Nothing is going to change because people can still share their videos with us,” Gwinnett County police spokesperson Sgt. Michele Pihera said

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FILE - A Ring doorbell camera is seen installed outside a home in Wolcott, Conn., July 16, 2019. On Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, Amazon-owned Ring said it will stop allowing police departments to request doorbell camera footage from users, marking an end to a feature that has drawn criticism from privacy advocates. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Jessica Hill/AP

By Alexis Stevens
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

GWINNETTE COUNTY, Ga. — In an early morning traffic crash over the weekend, Alex Bane was rear-ended by another driver in Chamblee. That’s when police say Bane grabbed a handgun and fired 12 shots at the person who hit him, narrowly missing him but striking the vehicle.

Thanks to a Ring doorbell camera in the area and a license plate reader, investigators were quickly able to identify Bane as the suspect, police said Thursday.

This week, the Ring company announced a change to its app that previously allowed law enforcement agencies to request and receive video from those with its cameras. But metro Atlanta agencies say they don’t expect the change to impact their investigations.

“Nothing is going to change because people can still share their videos with us,” Gwinnett County police spokesperson Sgt. Michele Pihera told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

So what’s changing? According to Ring, the “Request for Assistance” tool on the Neighbors app, launched in 2017, will no longer work for those with the popular doorbell cameras.

“Public safety agencies like fire and police departments can still use the Neighbors app to share helpful safety tips, updates and community events,” Ring posted in a blog. “They will no longer be able to use the RFA tool to request and receive video in the app.”

Police agencies, however, can still ask those with Ring cameras to review footage if it might have information pertinent to an investigation. Many agencies also have a program in place for those with cameras to register them, a form of community policing that can provide vital information when a crime occurs.

In Atlanta, those with security cameras can register them with Connect Atlanta.

“Registering cameras greatly enhances emergency preparedness by enabling police, fire and public safety professionals to better assess and rapidly respond to criminal activity and emergency situations,” Atlanta police spokesperson Officer John Predmore said. “It will also enable investigators to easily gather evidence in case of an incident.”

In recent years, security cameras have proved crucial for investigators.

Last May, cameras helped track the man accused of shooting several people inside a Midtown medical office into Cobb County , where he was arrested about eight hours later, according to police.

“Technology played a huge role,” Cobb police Chief Stuart VanHoozer said after Deion Patterson’s arrest. “If you rewind the hands of time four years, we probably would not be where we are right now. ... Those tools are really what got us the clues that we needed.”

Many metro counties and cities have programs similar to ones in Atlanta and Cobb for those who chose to register their cameras. Connect DeKalb, Gwinnett Safe Communities, Connect Clayton County, Connect Cherokee, Paulding Sheriff’s Camera Connect, and Connect Roswell are some of the collaborations already in place.

In Athens, the police department is working on developing a “Real Time Crime Center” that will have an integrated camera system, according to a spokesperson.

For those worried about privacy, police agencies say those registering cameras are helping keep their communities safe. There isn’t a way for investigators to “spy” on those with surveillance cameras.

“It does not give us access to the live feeds, just tells us where a camera is located and who to contact, so we can follow up more quickly and efficiently in the event of a public safety incident,” Roswell police spokesperson Officer Tim Lupo said.

In the recent Chamblee shooting, cameras helped investigators find a suspect in a case that might have otherwise gone unsolved.

Instead, officers tracked Bane to the Quality Inn at 2960 Northeast Expressway. There, he was taken into custody on various charges, including aggravated assault.


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