Fueled by scanners picking up police chatter, a small section of the population ardently started following law enforcement communications decades ago.
In recent years, following the police has gone high-tech.
And the cops can follow right back.
Indeed, police departments around the West Valley are Ring-ing in the New Year. Started as a home security device, Amazon-owned Ring now incorporates door-camera footage with comments and postings, primarily with its Neighbors app.
While some post videos of thefts and suspicious people wandering up to their front doors, a home security camera is not required to use Neighbors. Users of the free app post about stolen property, ask if anyone else heard gunshots, wonder about all the police activity up the street and ask for assistance finding lost pets.
The police keep an eye on Ring. Occasionally, a community relations officer will post information to the community.
Showing the police are watching, the Buckeye Police used Neighbors-posted videos to educate the community on keeping cars locked. The videos show a group of young people looking for unlocked cars at homes. (See “Buckeye Police,” Page 2.)
Ring/Neighbors users can also view incident maps to see reported crimes close to their homes and cumulative “safety reports.”
While Ring/Neighbors has official agreements with the Glendale Police Department and hundreds of other police departments across the country, several other apps allow people to track crime in their neighborhood.
Nextdoor, another free app, can be used for everything from selling furniture to posting photos of sunsets. Users also post about crimes and police activity in their neighborhoods.
“Car break-ins,” a user posted Dec. 26 in the Goodyear area. “Some kids up to no good last night off Via Elena (Street). Keep your doors locked and eyes opened.”
The user also posted a link to footage of young people breaking into two cars.
Citizen allows users to put in locations and track posts such as “report of gunfire” and “police activity.” The Citizen app is relatively new to the Valley and limited in its West Valley postings. According to its website, Citizen uses proprietary technology “to provide real-time alerts for crime and other emergencies reported to 911.”
Though it is not interactive, the site communitycrimemap.com allows people to enter their address and track recent crime in their neighborhoods.
While the Avondale Police Department did not respond to questions from the West Valley View, Goodyear and Buckeye police departments said they are active on all the apps.
“The Goodyear Police Department uses social media to get information out to the public,” said Lisa Berry, a Goodyear Police spokeswoman. “We use Twitter, Facebook, Nextdoor and Instagram.
“We are currently in the process of getting Ring for Neighbors, but it is still in the setup phase.”
The Buckeye Police Department also posts electronically, said spokeswoman Donna Rossi.
“The Buckeye Police Department is active with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Neighbors by Ring, Nextdoor and we have the app MYPD which we are starting to put online,” Rossi said.
“These tools are essential in today’s world for communicating with citizens and visitors to our community,” said Rossi. “Social media allows the department to put out accurate and timely information before rumors and misinformation can start to swirl.”
With so many users posting information about crimes, police representatives caution against thinking of apps and social media as a 911 replacement.
“The Goodyear Police Department social media platforms are not meant for reporting crimes,” said Berry. “Social media is not monitored 24/7 and automatic response to private Facebook messages goes out to all senders advising if a crime needs to be reported to do so by either calling 911 (emergency in progress) or the non-emergency line at 623-932-1220.”
Same goes for Buckeye, Rossi said: “We do not real-time monitor each platform. Therefore, these are not tools citizens should use for crime reporting. In any emergency, people are encouraged to call 911 for immediate help, or the non-emergency police number for assistance.”
Even so, police communication is becoming more high-tech.
“The Goodyear Police Department uses social media as a tool to keep the public informed about crimes, crime trends, crime prevention, good news stories and anything going on within the police department,” said Berry.
People like Rossi think real-life interactions remain invaluable.
“Building trust and confidence in residents still requires face-to-face community meetings, block watch groups, civic involvement and good ole fashion community policing,” Rossi said.
“Social media does not take the place of those officers who carry basketballs in their patrol cars who start a ‘shoot around’ when they see a group of kids gathering in a park.”
While old-fashioned scanner listeners try to filter out audio crackles, app and social media users sift through the electronic static of snarky comments and irrelevant postings.
For those looking to mix the old and the new: Police Scanner, Broadcastify, Scanner 911 and many other apps allow users to listen to scanners on mobile devices.