Fueled by CB 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 many users post videos of “porch pirates,” car break-ins and suspicious people wandering up to their front doors, a home security camera is not required to use Neighbors.
Nearly every weekend night, Glendale residents post about hearing gunshots - or were they fireworks? Other users of the free app anonymously (the app assigns generic usernames) post about stolen property, 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.
On Dec. 26, the Phoenix Police Department posted this to Glendale Ring/Neighbors users:
“Looking for Identification of suspect.
“Dec. 13, 2019, between 9:20 - 9:45 p.m. (suspect) fled toward 2700 West Glendale (Avenue). Description black male wearing camouflage clothing- possible turned inside.”
Brandon Sheffert, spokesman for the Peoria Police Department, noted Peoria is not an official partner of the Ring/Neighbors app.
“Ring is something we do use,” Sheffert said. “But we haven’t dived into it.
“Nowadays, with (residents having) video cameras, it’s an important aspect. We are set up to be a Ring community. We do have the ability to communicate with residents. But we haven’t officially launched it.”
If this happens, Peoria would join the Glendale Police Department and more than 600 other police departments who partner with Neighbors by Ring.
“It’s a two-way communication; there’s a lot of information they push out in regards to community events. At the same time they receive information,” said Jay O’Neill, a spokesman for the Glendale Police Department.
“It’s a helpful tool where we often see someone in the community where they have information about something happening, like a car break-in.”
Ring/Neighbors users can also view incident maps to see reported crimes close to their homes and cumulative “safety reports.”
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.
“We’ve been on Nextdoor for several years,” said Sheffert. “It’s a good neighborhood tool. We can’t see what’s being posted in neighborhoods.”
Sheffert said he has used Nextdoor to post about missing people and a sexual assault suspect.
The Peoria Police Department is also active on Facebook (21,040 likes), Twitter (9,546 followers) and Instagram.
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.
Citizen did have a posting Saturday, Dec. 28, reporting a Peoria assault. 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.
With so many users posting information about crimes, police representatives caution against thinking of apps and social media as a 911 replacement.
“The good old trustworthy way is just give us a call” about a possible crime, said Sheffert.
“It comes down to old-school policing.”
Even so, he acknowledged the changes in police communication going electronic to keep up with changes in society.
“I’d say in the past five or so years, with social media ... plus all the cameras, I think it’s really heightened the partnership with the community,” said Sheffert.
“ It makes them want to be involved and gives them an easy way to be involved.”
And the efficiency of electronic communication is tough to beat.
“Ten years ago, we would hold town hall to find someone who was missing, and there might be 20 people who show up,” Sheffert said.
“Whereas, now we can put something on Facebook and (reach) 20,000 people.”
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.