Residents get digital to improve neighborhood safety, deter porch pirates


COLUMBUS, Ohio — No matter where you live, you want to feel safe in your home and your neighborhood.

And with the holidays just around the corner, many will get packages piling up at their doors. Boxes filled with goodies can also entice porch pirates and burglars to your home.

Sam Linn is the owner of Spartan IT, and serves as the president of the Brewery District Merchant's Association and president of the Brewery District Community Association.

Your traditional block watch groups and national night out programs can be extremely helpful getting neighbors to connect.

“It was such an awesome night to see the neighborhood turnout, to see the police turnout, the city officials,” said Merion Village Block Watch Captain Dee Debenport.

However, does your traditional block watch really keep your neighborhood safe?

“It's not your mother's block watch,” argued Debenport.

Debenport has been a staple in the Merion Village block watch for years.

“I think we use every tool in the toolbox. We use Ring. I think the exciting thing through Ring is through the Neighbors app, what Shotspotter is doing,” Debenport said.

As far as porch thefts, you've seen plenty of videos of brazen porch pirates walking right up to someone's door and stealing packages. So, do these doorbell cams really work?

“If 10-15% of the homes in the neighborhood that have ring doorbells they say it does lower the burglary and package thefts,” said Columbus Police Officer Jon Compson.

He's seen enough video of thieves looking right at the camera and taking off.

“A lot of times, we've seen people walk up to a doorbell and the porch, look at the bell and realized they are already on camera, it's too late, then run off,” Compson said.

Cameras like Ring, Nest, Arlo are invaluable both as deterrents and as crime-solvers.

He adds even if you don't get a camera, get Ring's Neighborhood app. It's free for anyone to download.

“If you don't want to buy a ring doorbell or go through the hassle of setting one up, you can join the app and see other broadcast and other videos people have obtained through their electronic doorbells that have been posted in your neighborhood,” Compson said.

Compson argues all the cameras in the world won't replace your old-fashioned neighborhood block watch.

Dabenport of the Merion Village Block Watch adds with younger neighbors like Linn stepping in with technology, it has only improved their neighborhood.

“I'm trying to take what I know, my knowledge and skill set and leverage it against some of the things we are trying to accomplish to get results,” Linn added.

They agree video and apps alone won't keep a neighborhood safe. Neighbors need to know what's going on down the street.

“If people have a way to communicate effectively to identify those issues, and can leverage that with someone from the community that's a funnel point for the community for communication, that's going to be even more helpful,” Linn said.

“I think the lesson at the end of the day is good communication, open communication and a willingness to put a little bit of shoulder to the wheel,” Debenport said.