BRADLEY — “Take a bite out of crime” has been the message of McGruff the Crime Dog for four decades.
But as McGruff celebrates his 40th birthday this year, police have found a 21st century way of taking a bite out of crime.
And just as McGruff’s call for resident watchfulness was the National Crime Prevention Council’s attempt to increase crime awareness and personal safety in the United States, today’s efforts also rely on the help of residents.
That new effort comes through the advent of doorbell cameras and high-tech surveillance systems.
Last week, Bradley Police Lt. Bob Mason gave a presentation to the village’s trustees about the latest tool in combating crime. Police departments here and nationwide are teaming with Ring to allow residents to help them as they investigate crimes.
Ring is a manufacturer of home security systems, including a video doorbell system. The company has an app called Neighbors Ring which allows you to view the doorbell video of neighbors who wish to share it.
“It’s the community working with the police to make our neighborhoods safer,” Mason said.
More than 20 years ago, police and residents began partnering with Neighborhood Watch programs and advocated that if a person saw something suspicious, they called police.
This new technology takes it a step further.
“This is the electronic version of the Neighborhood Watch,” Bourbonnais Police Chief Jim Phelps said.
Bourbonnais rolled out using the app a few weeks ago, Phelps said.
“This is a great proactive way for the community to be involved,” Phelps said. “They can participate in the investigation and partner with us.”
Kankakee police have been involved with the program since last fall.
While the public has not shared any videos from their cameras with his department, Kankakee Chief Frank Kosman said they have used community postings of “porch pirates,” people stealing packages off doorsteps, to apprehend two juveniles.
“We check [the app] for posts and videos,” he said. “We use this to provide information.”
The Neighbors Ring app does not allow police access to a user’s cameras.
When using Neighbors Ring, law enforcement see the same interface that all users see; the content is the same, the exact locations of posts are unclear, and the user’s personal identity is not displayed, according to the Ring website.
There are two key differences, according to the company:
• Law enforcement can view public posts from within their jurisdiction (instead of just their “neighborhood”)
• Law enforcement posts are identified so users can clearly see that they are the source of the content. This means that posts or comments made by law enforcement are clearly marked with their official title and name.
Users control who views their footage. Only content that a user chooses to make available to the public on Neighbors Ring can be viewed by those using the app or by local police. Users can choose to share text updates, photos and videos taken on any device, including but not limited to Ring’s home security devices, according to the company.
“This is not a tool for monitoring personal cameras,” Phelps said.