In February, Orono experienced a rash of late night property crimes that is still under investigation.

During the ongoing investigation, the Orono Police Department combed through a number of videos and photos that captured the crimes. Many of these were from people’s home cameras, such as Ring.

According to Orono police investigator Kyle Kirschner, those photos and videos where very useful, but it was also time consuming to comb through, as investigators had to go though a number of sites to view them such as local Facebook community sites, or the Nextdoor social media site.

Those posts also didn’t always give accurate location of where the videos where taken, which meant Kirschner and the Orono Police Department needed to verify where those videos where shot.

Kirschner thought there had to be better way for the community to help the police department when it comes to the use of home camera videos.

Kirschner found the Neighbors App program, which is Ring’s free, app-based neighborhood watch feature that alerts users to crime and safety events in a radius up to five miles around a home. Users don’t need to have a Ring camera to use the app.

“I saw a need after the February incident,” Kirschner said.

Kirschner announced the program on a post to the Orono Police Department’s Facebook page.

“Neighbors allows you, the user, to share photos, videos and information related to local crime and safety incidents so fellow residents can stay informed. This will not just give police access to your cameras, you will need to share such video with us. Video footage from home systems is very popular and has been extremely helpful in our investigations,” he said.

Verified police departments get access to the Neighbors app, where users can post videos of potential crimes captured on their cameras.

“They can post and we can see the specific area where it is coming from and that narrows things down for us,” Kirschner said. “If somebody tags the Orono Police Department on this, I get an email alert notifying me about it.”

Kirschner said that the program also helps get the word out to the public quickly if the police department needs information or help because it allows the department to send messages to users in certain geographic areas to ask them for help to find footage of suspects.

“We can request assistance – highlight an area and ask people to check their cameras and send any footage our way,” he said. “A little piece of information can mean a whole lot for us.”

Anyone with a smartphone can download the Neighbors app in order to receive updates and have the option to post photos or videos from any device.

Kirschner wanted to make it perfectly clear that this does not give the police department access to users’ or residents’ home cameras, just access to photos and/or videos that people post on the app.

“We can only see what people share,” Kirschner said. “It doesn’t give us access to their camera.”

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