Rochester Police pushing for Neighbors app use to help solve crimes

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Rochester Police Department is trying to take the business of neighbors watching out for each other online.

On Wednesday night, it held an online meeting to encourage people to upload pictures or video that might help spot criminals and to work with an online infrastructure that’s already there.

“This guy appears to be checking out cars in the neighborhood, to see if they’re locked,” observed Rochester Police Lt. Richard Waldo as he examined one video already appearing on the Neighbors app.

Neighbors is tied to Ring doorbell cameras and Rochester Police are trying to assemble a network of Neighbors neighbors to help them catch and deter criminals.

“It’s a new neighborhood watch,” Waldo explained. “We used to have neighborhood watch people walk in the street. This has now morphed into people have videos, and they’re taking pictures, and they’re sharing it with their community.”

Police showed a training video from Ring on how to use Neighbors in their online community interaction meeting.

This time, Waldo is focusing on the Lake Section of Northwestern Rochester, which has seen its share of break-ins, porch pirates, and car burglaries, and trying to get people who already have Ring cameras and who might already be on the Neighbors app, to help out.

He also pointed out that it provides confidentiality for anyone skittish about being seen helping the police.

“There would be less safeguards in the old system,” he said, “where I’d just go to your door knock on it and ask you to help and you tell me. This at least has a layer of anonymity.”

In fact, if someone posts potential evidence, even police won’t know who it is, as participants in the Neighbors network would not be identified by name.

“It’s out there that people don’t want to help the police,” Waldo conceded. “I believe there are more people out there that want to. And this adds another layer of security for them to help us. So it’s been nothing but positive responses so far.”

Waldo underscores an important point.

While the Neighbors app was generated by the makers of Ring doorbell cameras, you don’t specifically have to have a Ring camera to use it.

It’s possible to upload pictures or video onto Neighbors from any camera, or from a phone.