Your Ring security camera probably won't catch a burglar

(Image credit: Ring)

Smart video doorbells have exploded in popularity over the last few years, giving homeowners the chance to see exactly who is at their door – even when away from home – as well as recording intruders in the event of a break-in. 

However, an investigation by NBC into Ring video doorbells has found that the popular devices aren't as useful to police investigating crimes as you may have thought.

This is in spite of the Amazon-owned company being in partnership with nearly 700 law enforcement agencies as of December 2019, as part of Ring's mission to "work together for safer neighborhoods".

In some areas, police departments were even able to offer discounted Ring security cameras, in the hope that they can tap into the crowdsourced footage hosted on Ring’s Neighbors app.

Limited success

Of 40 law enforcement agencies in the US, NBC found that only 13 had made arrests on the basis of Ring footage. Many of the remaining agencies either made zero arrests or didn't know how effective Ring was.

None of the 40 departments collected data on the usefulness of the Ring partnership, while just one quarter of the police forces felt that the security cameras acted as a deterrent to would-be criminals or intruders.

As Engadget points out, part of the problem could be the sheer amount of information police forces need to sift through, particularly if your Ring camera is routinely triggered by your neighbors or curious animals. It could be that, despite the partnership, police officers simply don't have the time to analyze all the Ring footage that comes their way.

(Image credit: Ring)

There have been some success stories, however. Arcadia, a city in Los Angeles, reportedly saw a 25 percent decrease in residential burglaries after a cut-price rollout of security cameras from the city's police department (although it's not clear how the video doorbells contributed to this drop).

Even so, privacy concerns surrounding Ring, and in particular its Neighbors app, are on the rise, with some fearing that the company is building a for-profit private surveillance network. 

Plus, a recent data breach exposed the personal data of more than 3,000 device owners only added to the unease surrounding Ring’s sprawling network, leaving many to question how seriously the company is taking the security of its customers. 

Ring has recently addressed some of these security concerns, having unveiled a new web dashboard of privacy controls that allows its users to better manage the access settings of their devices and keeping hackers out.

If these new measures prove to be effective enough at blocking hackers and keeping your personal data secure, then Ring cameras could be a great way to deter criminals from trying to enter your home – if not catching them should they break in.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.