By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
LONGPORT – Police Chief Frank Culmone has advised residents that a recent effort by the Atlantic County Sheriff and Prosecutor that enables residents to use an online app to inform law enforcement about problems in the neighborhood could circumvent a prompt response from local police.
Galloway Township Police Chief Donna Higbee has also penned a letter to residents stating the department does not endorse the Ring doorbell system’s Neighbors app for reporting crimes.
“I want no confusion about public safety, who to report crime to, who will be investigating reports of crime here in Galloway Township and who will be coming to your aid should you call,” Higbee said in her letter posted on the Galloway Police Facebook page.
The Ring doorbell Neighborhood app initiative has been promoted by Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler and Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner to assist crime prevention efforts.
According to a release Tyner issued on Wednesday, Aug. 12, the Ring, Inc.’s Neighbors app is a virtual town watch that provides an additional avenue to share information that can solve and prevent crimes.
“Law enforcement is committed to keeping our neighborhoods safe and the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office have joined together with Ring, Inc., to assist in crime prevention by using the Neighbors app safety initiative between residents and law enforcement,” he said.
Last week Scheffler issued a release asking residents to sign onto the Neighbors app as a way to celebrate National Night Out, an annual event held in many Atlantic County municipalities to educate the public about how to prevent crimes in their neighborhoods. National Night Out events have been waylayed as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Neighbors app is free and allows users to share information, photos and videos with law enforcement and their communities. Individuals who would like to share video through the Neighbors app do not have to be a Ring camera user, they said. Almost every surveillance camera system on the market today is capable of sharing video using the Neighbors app.
“This initiative only complicates the reporting of a crime or serious activity by delaying the reporting directly to the Longport Police Department,” Culmone said in his letter posted on the department’s Facebook page. “Essentially, the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office would notify the Longport Police Department (3rd party) of suspicious activity, or Sheriff Scheffler is launching a program where his department would be investigating these activities through the Mays Landing Office.”
He said the Sheriff’s Office has not communicated the program to local law enforcement. It was initially announced in a press release to the media and on Facebook.
“The Neighbors app is not meant to replace the normal course of reporting a crime to police, but the technology is meant to be a collaborative tool used between the community and law enforcement,” Tyner said.
“While the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office monitors the Neighbors app on a daily basis, crimes should still be reported to your local police department at their non-emergency phone number,” Tyner said, instructing residents to call 911 to report a crime in progress.
Both the Longport and Galloway Police Departments have launched a camera recognition program of their own, which allows local police to quickly identify locations of the cameras and follow up on leads that can aid in the apprehension of suspects, Culmone said.
“This saves officers valuable time which they would otherwise spend going door-to-door attempting to locate security footage that could help identify a potential suspect,” he said.
Longport already has its own Citizen Portal on the longportpd.org website that allows residents to register a service request, register a camera or report minor crimes. Higbee said Galloway Township would soon be going live with a citizens’ portal as well.
Both chiefs encouraged residents to report crimes to 911 or call the non-emergency phone numbers.
Longport’s non-emergency number is 609-822-2141.
The Galloway Township Police Department’s non-emergency number is 609-652-3705.
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