In 2013 Jamie Siminoff started marketing a motion sensing WIFI-enabled doorbell video camera called Doorbot. After being turned down by a number of investors, the video camera with a microphone and speaker for two-way audio communication gained in popularity. In 2018 it was rebranded as “Ring Video Doorbell” and acquired by Amazon for a reported 1.8 billion dollars. Since then, a number of similar “knock-off” doorbell cameras have flooded the market. No doubt about it; these cameras are cool because they alert you on your phone if someone rings the doorbell or sets off the motion sensor. This allows you to see and talk to the person on your porch without actually having to open the door or even be home!
Since being acquired by Amazon, Amazon has been quick to market Ring as a crime-fighting tool. But, is that really true? Does the presence of Ring or one of the many “knock-offs” prevent criminal acts within its span of view? Or is it just an unsupported marketing claim to sell more product?
WIFI-enabled video doorbell cameras as a crime deterrent
It seems logical that if a would-be-crook notices a video doorbell, that crook might be deterred from taking the package that was dropped off on your porch, steal mail from your mailbox, or do something nefarious on your property. And, since burglars sometimes ring a doorbell to see if someone is home before breaking in, if the homeowner can say something to the person on the porch causing malefactors to believe that someone is home (or at least being watched), it stands to reason that Ring and other similar devices might have a crime deterrent effect.
As a physical security consultant here in Portland Oregon these questions intrigue me. Back in 2014 I wrote an article entitled What Good are Security Surveillance Cameras? Since then, I have kept abreast on new research and remain convinced that there is no solid empirical evidence that surveillance cameras of any type prevent or deter crimes. Ring and assorted “Knock-offs” are no exception.
Ring now has partnerships with more than 1,000 police departments throughout the United States through a controversial and somewhat secretive Neighbors Law Enforcement Portal. None of these police departments have been able to report that Ring has had any measurable effect on crime.
CNET, an American media website that publishes reviews, news, articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos on technology and consumer electronics globally, examined theft rates before and after Ring installations, and concluded “The data shows that crime continued to fluctuate, and analysts said that while many factors affect crime rates, such as demographics, median income and weather, Ring’s technology likely wasn’t one of them.” Similar studies and research have come to the same conclusion.
What good are WIFI-enabled doorbell video doorbell cameras?
In my article seven years ago I wrote:
While much of the independent scientific research suggests that the presence of security surveillance cameras does little, if anything at all to deter crime, cameras can offer security benefits to business owners and even owners and residents of residential property.
* Security cameras like Ring might have some unmeasurable effect on crime prevention. There is just no way to get into the criminal mind and know if someone who walked upon your porch might have been deterred from committing a crime because of the presence of a security surveillance camera.
* Security cameras can give occupants an increased sense of safety and security by reducing anxiety or fear of what’s going on at the property. Even if this sense of safety and security is illusionary, there is some benefit in just “feeling better.”
* Security cameras like Ring can be very helpful in apprehending and prosecuting criminals. The images captured by these cameras often offer law enforcement vital and tangible investigative leads and results in more criminals being held accountable for their actions in the justice system.
While there is no independent scientific research showing that the presence of Ring cameras or one of the many knock-offs, have any measurable effect on deterring thefts or other crimes, they are neat technology that can give occupants an increased sense of safety and security. They allow occupants to visually see and hear what’s happening on their porch and images captured by these cameras can prove law enforcement with valuable leads to pursue if a serious crime were to occur.