BILLINGS- — The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office has invited members of the community to download the Neighbors app by Ring, a security system company owned by Amazon.
With this app, users can share videos and photos with law enforcement. In turn, they can also share notifications with the public.
“This product provides us the opportunity to push information out to the public. Through this app, within a specific geographic area, the entire county, we can do many different things to request input from the community, we can also use that to push out alerts for issues of public safety,” says Capt. Dan Paris of the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office.
Paris says that the only information the office has access to is that which users voluntarily share under complete anonymity.
Lt. Robert Lester with the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office says they have seen a lot of community involvement in the short time since putting out the invitation.
Lester and Paris said this technology could have been helpful during a recent major event in Billings: a nine-hour standoff at a West End residence where a murder suspect fled into an innocent woman's home.
One neighbor on Swan Lane, which is near the standoff site, said she thinks the app could be helpful.
“I think it’s great because I think it informs all of us about what’s going on in our neighborhood and I think it’s important to have that information,” says neighbor Pam Berry.
Berry said most of the information being spread during that time was “hearsay” and not information from police. Berry believes that this capability would have been helpful for the community during that standoff.
The idea of downloading the Neighbors app has mixed results with the public. In response to a Q2 News Facebook post, several commenters expressed concerns about privacy or turning over information to Amazon. Others thought it was a good idea.
The sheriff’s office says it has no partnership with Amazon, but that Neighbors is simply a free app that lets them share information.
Click here to download the Neighbors app for Android devices on Google Play.