MILTON, Ga. — Milton has agreed to enter a partnership with two security companies that will allow police access to residential doorbell camera applications and data collected by license plate readers.
The city has signed on to allow Milton Police access to the Ring Neighbors app, which is supplemental to the company’s popular doorbell cameras. The app allows users to share video or crime alerts with their neighbors.
The agreement allows Milton Police to access the app and they will see the same interface as a homeowner, but the exact locations of posts and the user’s identities are hidden. Officers will only be able to access public posts, and only those made in their jurisdiction. Posts from officers will be marked as coming from law enforcement.
The contract could raise privacy concerns among residents, but Capt. Charles Barstow said participation in the program is voluntary, and any the users can decide what videos to upload that can be seen by officers. Barstow said police will only be able to access the app from their city-authorized devices.
Police can request information from the app’s users through Ring. Officers will make a request to the company referencing a specific case number, time range and area. Ring will then send a notification to users in that area, and homeowners can either choose to share their video files or they can opt out.
In a Nov. 1 email, Barstow said Milton Police would be active on the app “in the next week or so.”
“Ring is almost a virtual canvassing of a neighborhood where, instead of officers knocking on doors to ask if neighbors see anything suspicious, they can now digitally ask those in the city with Ring systems if their cameras caught anything suspicious,” Barstow said. “Ring systems have been invaluable in the city of Milton, and in the past six months have helped detectives solve a multi-jurisdictional mail theft, as well as multiple property crimes, including entering autos.”
The city also entered an agreement with Flock, a company that manufactures license plate reader cameras. Three neighborhoods have the cameras installed and Milton will soon mount a Flock camera at the entrance to Bell Memorial Park.
Officers will be able to view photos for up to 30 days and can be sent real-time notifications of stolen cars captured on the camera.
“Property crimes are notoriously difficult to solve, and the [agreement] with Flock will allow (Milton Police) to receive real-time alerts when stolen vehicles enter a monitored location, allowing officers to be proactive,” Barstow said.
During a testing phase, Barstow said the Flock camera at Bell Memorial was instrumental in tracking down a hit-and-run suspect and it helped identify a suspect in an entering auto case.
Barstow said neighborhoods can opt out of the partnership with Milton Police, and residents can be added to a “safe list” that identifies the car entering or exiting the neighborhood is owned by a resident.
“All footage from the city of Milton-purchased camera at Bell Memorial Park will be taken of publicly accessible areas where no expectation of privacy exists,” Barstow said.
Johns Creek recently passed similar agreements with Ring and Flock after a lengthy discussion between members of its city council. Milton passed its contracts Oct. 21 under the consent agenda, which does not include debate from council members.
Barstow said Johns Creek has a different process for its agendas, and the contracts were put on Milton’s consent agenda because they fit the bill of being routine or expected to receive unanimous approval.
Both contracts will assist officers in investigating crimes along with the city’s SCRAM program, Barstow said. The SCRAM program is a volunteer database of homes and businesses that have installed security cameras. When a crime occurs, officers can pinpoint the location of nearby private security cameras and can request to see captured footage.
“The goal is to continue to use new technologies and new partnerships in an effort to continue to keep Milton one of the safest cities in Georgia,” Barstow said.