KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — In the past, vigilant residents banded together to form a neighborhood watch and keep an eye out for anything suspicious and keep the area safe. Times have changed.
“That was our challenge, is to try to set up an old-school neighborhood watch,” said Peter Kushner, president of the Oakland/Winchell Neighborhood Association on Kalamazoo’s west side. “There was apprehension. There was suspicion. There was just a lack of knowledge of how it could work.”
But it wasn’t a matter of residents not wanting to get involved, he said.
“I think people still want to help their neighbors. I see it all the time. But I see it on neighborhood Facebook pages, I see it through emails. I see it through the way we text and communicate with each other,” Kushner said.
So the Oakland/Winchell Neighborhood turned to doorbell camera-maker Ring’s new app as a possible solution. The app, which can be downloaded regardless of whether you own a doorbell camera, allows neighbors to share information and images in real time.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has signed on to the app, too.
“It’s a virtual neighborhood watch, is what it is,” KDPS Assistant Chief David Boysen said.
KDPS may be the first police agency in West Michigan to monitor the app.
A Ring spokesperson says it doesn’t provide app user data, but says it has partnered with several police agencies across the county and elsewhere in Michigan.
“You can see what your neighbors are posting. What’s going on in your neighborhood? You can comment to the post. And again, as law enforcement, we have access that. We can see what’s going on,” Boysen said. “We don’t know who it’s coming from, because everyone’s anonymous on there. But we’ll be able to see where it’s taking place. “
It has already paid off. A feed that captured a porch pirate in the Oakland/Winchell Neighborhood last week led to the suspect’s arrest the same day it happened.
KDPS can also use the app to send out important public safety messages.
Kushner says he sees it as a way to bring neighbors together in a digital age.
“It’s tools like this, this Ring app, that’s bringing people together more in the way they’re use to handling their business,” he said.
You can download the Neighbors app by going to download.ring.com/neighbors or by texting ‘StaySafe’ to 555888. Then you opt in to your neighborhood and customize the area for which you want notifications. Then you’ll get real-time alerts from your neighbors, police and Ring about what’s going on in your area. You can share text updates, photos and videos taken on any device.