High-tech neighborhood watch programs: do they help keep neighbors safe or hurt police investigations?
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Neighborhood watch programs are not a new concept.
But the way neighbors are looking out for each other is moving from keeping an eye out to catching crimes on camera.
"I said I think somebody is outside," neighborhood watch member Tracey Parker said. "And sure enough."
Security cameras are becoming more and more common.
"I saw him on my security camera and was alerted to that," Parker said. "My husband went out and opened up the garage door, and that man ran off and I don't know what his intentions were."
It was a wake up call for Parker's entire neighborhood.
"We all got together," Parker said. "We started talking about things that we could do to prevent anymore serious things from happening."
More people are upgrading their security measures to their laptops and cell phones with online security cameras.
Parker and many of her neighbors already installed cameras on their properties, and they decided the best way to ramp those security measures up was a full-fledged mobile neighborhood watch program, complete with the GroupMe App.
It's no longer a neighborhood watch meeting like the old days, but an instant connection to neighbors.
Doorbell cameras are just another way community members are getting proactive with their neighborhood's safety.
Ring, Vivant, and other security systems are creating online neighborhoods of their own.
They're mobile and online interfaces where users share video and photos captured of possible suspects.
"Any time that we have footage of a bad guy doing something bad, it helps," Sergeant Lyle Waterworth with the Jonesboro Police Department said.
They are now routine in any police investigation.
"Be it a vehicle break in, a home break in, a shooting, a stabbing, or whatever, our detectives and our patrol officers are trained to go canvas the neighborhood," Waterworth said.
But, it's also a new balancing act for police, between having as many eyes as possible looking for a suspect and knowing criminals have eyes that keep up with technological advances too.
"Sometimes if a bad guy sees themselves on social media before we get the case, sometimes they'll destroy the evidence," Waterworth said.
"You've got to think about the connectivity of people who don't have good intentions," Parker said.
"So it helps a lot," Waterworth said. "But at the same time, that fine line you've got to walk to make sure that we have the clues and the information we need to get the case closed."
Waterworth also recommends putting signage in your area or neighborhood.
He said anything you can do to draw attention to the fact that your area is being watched, the more likely a criminal will move on to another less-watched area.
If you are interested in starting up your own neighborhood watch program, you can contact the Jonesboro Police Department.
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