SAN ANTONIO – Doorbell security video cameras have become a vital tool for solving neighborhood crimes. But one company is now making it harder for law enforcement to get that footage.
“For us, it was interesting to see the change. They didn’t explain a whole lot as to why the change was made. We in law enforcement more and more are relying on technology,” said Cibolo Police Officer Matt Schima.
According to the Ring website, the Request for Assistance feature will be discontinued effective Jan. 31st, 2024. The tool allowed Ring customers to share videos in response to public safety agency requests through the Neighbors app.
“There have been many crimes that, had it not been for this newer technology that’s almost in every corner, the crime wouldn’t have been solved,” said Lionel Perez, Von Ormy police chief.
Amazon and Rings’s decision does not mean that law enforcement can no longer use the security video. Instead, officers must instruct the person with the video to deliver it to them.
ACT4SA executive director Ananda Tomas says it’s a policy change that is a win for privacy rights.
“If we have ownership, and this is something that belongs to us, we should be the ones giving permission to anyone to have access to this, but I also think it ties into the larger police surveillance state,” said Tomas.
The Cibolo and Von Ormy police departments don’t expect the change to disrupt their work.
“We’re not going to stop solving crimes. We’re not going to — the community is not going to be in any more danger than it was before,” said Schima.
The San Antonio Police Department shared a similar sentiment in the following statement:
“This decision will not have a big impact on how our detectives and follow-up units investigate crimes. If a video is needed for an investigation, the owner of the video typically releases it to our detectives. Otherwise, our practice is to obtain a warrant for the evidence.”
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus’s repost on X from the Major Cities Chiefs Association said the opposite. It reads in part, “Make no mistake, this decision will hamper local law enforcement’s ability… We hope Amazon will reconsider their approach to public safety.”