‘Virtual Neighborhood Watch’ to be Tested in Palisades

Jamie Siminoff
Photo courtesy of Ring

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

Two leading Palisadians, Jamie Siminoff of the Ring security camera network and Lou Kamer, a technology consultant to Fortune 500 companies and member of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, are drawing up plans to test a “virtual neighborhood watch” in town.

They will meet this weekend to start identifying up to 50 homes that could be linked through a network of ubiquitous cameras that would text or email an alert to members when suspicious behavior was detected in the neighborhood.

They believe such a network can reduce “preventable” crime—offenses that take place when someone fails to lock a car door or bolt a window—by 25 percent.

They are hoping to bring in local authorities, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the office of Councilmember Mike Bonin, to back the initiative.

There are many hazards, from racial profiling to privacy concerns, as well as legal questions, such as who is responsible for video footage, but Kamer told the Palisadian-Post that these are exactly the lessons which will come out of the test project.

The initiative will start in a small, quiet way over the next few days, with a leaflet to be designed by PaliWorks, Kamer’s grass roots community action group.

The leaflet will be, Kamer said, distributed to every home in the Palisades.

It will include updated safety tips, the latest thinking about what should be in a family “earthquake kit,” as well as reminding citizens how to reduce the odds of becoming a property crime statistic.

Thefts from parked cars represent nearly half the crimes reported in the Palisades—and many of those thefts are from vehicles parked outside a home or in the driveway.

Neighborhood watches are an ancient form of community policing: A virtual watch, as opposed to random “curtain-twitching” by curious neighbors, adds technology.

It would involve connecting the web video cameras mounted within front door bells, as pioneered by Siminoff’s Ring product, with other cameras positioned, for instance, in trees to film a panoramic area around a home.

Providing there are enough cameras, a block could be “bathed” in surveillance cameras being monitored live through homeowners’ computers or mobile phones.

Spotting a suspicious character, maybe one who is “casing” a home, could trigger an alert to every member of the block watch.

If someone vouches for the visitor, the alert is turned off. If not, the character could be filmed and tracked passing by several homes, maybe to a vehicle with a clear tag plate, and LAPD or private security alerted.

Finding one or two blocks willing to take part in the experiment, using a mixture of Ring and third-party video surveillance products, could take a while.

A perfect test area could be blocked by a resident who is uncomfortable with the notion of living in a 24-hour surveillance operation. The danger of the network being hijacked by unfriendly elements, with neighbors set against neighbors, is not just science fiction.

Others might be wary that this is just another selling opportunity for the Palisadian serial entrepreneur, whose Ring products are now on sale in nearly 100 countries.

But as Ring was valued at $470 million in May, 50 sales are unlikely to change Siminoff’s fortunes too noticeably.

And, if crime rates do go down significantly, as thieves are discouraged or displaced, the town might be proud once again of our entrepreneurial sons.

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