HPD and Ring

We don’t have a Ring doorbell so this doesn’t affect me, but I do find it quite interesting.

The Houston Police Department announced Monday that it is joining Ring’s mobile app, Neighbors, in a move officials hope will reduce crime and improve safety in neighborhoods across the city, even as department officials complain of low staffing levels.

The HPD partnership with Ring, a rapidly growing home surveillance company that sells video doorbells and similar products, would help the police department communicate more effectively in real time with residents as crimes occur, Houston Police Burglary and Theft Division Commander Glenn Yorek said.

“HPD will be able to send alerts to neighbors of crime and safety incidents in real time, request information about local crime and safety from neighbors who opt in to sharing for a particular request, and work with the local community to build trust and to make the community safer,” Yorek said, announcing the partnership at the department’s downtown headquarters Monday morning.

The joint venture is the latest for Ring, a seven-year-old tech startup purchased by Amazon for more than $1 billion in February that has grown exponentially in recent years even as it has weathered criticism over its privacy practices and disputes over claims that its products reduce crime.


An article in MIT Technology Review reviewed Ring’s findings in the Los Angeles neighborhood and found that burglaries in subsequent years rose to levels higher than in any of the previous seven years.

And In West Valley City, Utah, officials performed a test in two neighborhoods of similar size and levels of crime. Both neighborhoods saw a drop in crime, according to the MIT Technology Review story, but the results were surprising: the neighborhood without the devices saw a more significant drop.

Maria Cuellar, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, said there is not sufficient evidence to say whether Ring devices really reduce crime.

Ring’s study in Los Angeles was problematic because it relied on small sample sizes, Cuellar said, adding that a properly designed study, or more data and analysis, is needed to tell if Ring cameras are really effective at reducing crime.

I think the question about whether smart doorbell/home security systems like Ring have an effect on crime or not will never be settled. The sample sizes are small, there are likely to be regional variations, and so many factors affect crime that isolating one of them is nearly impossible. There still isn’t a consensus answer to the question of why violent crime has declined so precipitously since the mid-90’s; the lead hypothesis has a lot of evidence behind it, but plenty of people remain skeptical, and even its proponents don’t claim it’s the sole reason. As for the privacy concerns, that’s going to be up to everyone’s individual appetite for that kind of risk. I think if I were the type of person to install a Ring, I’d also want to have my local police department be a part of its Neighbors app. I’m not that kind of person, at least not at this time, so my response to this is mostly to shrug. Your mileage may vary.

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5 Responses to HPD and Ring

  1. Alex Bunin says:

    I love the State Farm commercial where the “Mayhem” guy is explaining to the Ring user that he is there to vandalize and steal his car and there is nothing the home owner can do about it. That is much more credible than the wimp at the gym telling the burglars over Ring that they better run.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    The 90’s were a particularly crime ridden time. I remember one of the local TV stations having a segment called “City Under Siege.” I personally came close to losing a pickup in those days, saved only by my brake to steering wheel “Club.” I was in a dark lot with tinted windows, so I guess the thief didn’t see it until he had already broken in.

    What finally broke the back of the crime wave? The Clinton crime bill, back when we weren’t afraid to call people super predators and actually lock up violent criminals for a long time. Of course, now we don’t say super predators, we say “valued and respected voters.”

    Look for the crime to return under the Kim Ogg era.

  3. J says:

    Dogwhistle Daniels at it again.

    Care to link any research, Bill? Because last time I surveyed the issue, the literature was not very supportive of the hypothesis that increased incarceration helped lower crime rates. Or is this more a “I feel what I feel” thing?

  4. Bill Daniels says:


    Even liberal USA Today admits the 1994 crime bill had some effect on crime. Bill and Hillary seem to think it helped.

  5. J says:

    USA Today being your “research” is all we need to know. Take care.

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