New Neighbors app helps locals report crime from their phones

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A neighborhood watch system for the modern age, that's what the Panama City Beach Police Department is saying after partnering with an app designed to keep neighborhoods and their residents safe.

Panama City Beach residents can now help Beach Police fight crime from the palms of their hands.

Panama City Beach Police recently partnered with the Neighbors app and "Ring", a company that makes video doorbells.

Chief Drew Whitman said, "The Neighbor[s] app is, like I said, totally free, there's no obligation, you can download it and monitor what's going on in your neighborhood, your community."

The app is very simple to use and set up and you don't need a doorbell camera to use it.

The app will first ask you to put in your home address. After finding your neighborhood it will ask for your name, an email, and a password. It will verify your neighborhood and that's the last step, you can now access any video your neighbors have shared from their cameras.

Chief Whitman says he even uses the system at his house, "Mine, I could pull up a live feed right now to see what's going on on my front porch. If the motion detector goes off and tells me someone is near my door and I can pull it up and see who's there."

It's solved a few crimes already.

"They sent us the video of someone at their front door where they were trying to break in and the stole some shoes from it. The video is crystal clear, we ID'd the guy and picked him up the same night," Whitman explained.

If neighbors haven't already shared their videos, they can be prompted to do so.

Whitman said, "If we have a crime that occurs, we contact Ring, they put out a message for us, saying, 'We had a crime at this time, in this area, do you want to share your videos?'"

He says the resident's information is completely anonymous and the main concern is protecting citizens.

"We're trying to keep our communities safe, our visitors safe, and definitely our residents safe," he explained.

The Ring doorbell camera costs around $100, but officials say Ring will install the camera for free.