I don’t know when, exactly, I decided to get a Ring video doorbell, but I do know that one day I got it in my head that I needed some minor surveillance around my door, after a series of unfortunate events. Events like the various times both UPS and the USPS claimed to have delivered items directly to my front door, even though I was sitting next to my front door when they claimed to have made the delivery. Or the few times packages of mine have grown legs and taken their horse down to the Old Town Road. Or maybe it was around the time my neighbor held two of my packages hostage—I’m sorry, the time my neighbor made sure nobody else stole my packages and extorted me for a six-pack of Beck’s for being so vigilant with the packages nobody asked him to protect in the first place.
Point is, I’ve often wished I had a camera on my front door. So when my kids unplugged the part of my doorbell that rings inside the home and lost it, I decided to invest in a Ring video doorbell. Boy, what a great terrible decision that shit was.
I live in Washington, D.C.—more specifically, Ward 8, one of the poorest wards in the city. In a city dealing with the most intense gentrification in America, I live in the part of town where that’s not really a concern...yet. There are definitely white people moving into homes around here; the cheap-for-D.C. housing stock, proximity to lots of popular venues and significant number of single-family homes make it an ideal location, ceteris paribus. (Look it up.)
But what you win in terms of lower mortgage payments you more than lose in terms of proximity to crime. Shit goes down ’round here, and, at times, frequently. I knew this when I bought my house, and short of having my car stolen from right in front of it, I’ve not been the victim of much in the way of personal crime, but there has been a lot of crime around me: murder, theft, etc. Thing is, when you know this, you come to both accept and expect it to some degree. Plus, I live in a major American city. It kind of comes with the territory. Of course, murder is always jarring, but the rest of the stuff more or less lives in the fog of daily living in urban America.
The Ring has changed all of that, and I don’t think I like this shit one bit. For starters, when you buy the device, you download the Ring app. Part of the information provided inside the app, mapped to your home address, is nearby incidents of crime reported both by neighbors who are Ring owners and aggregated local news surrounding the neighborhood.
Fam. Dis tew much.
It comes with a weekly crime report, and for my neighborhood, the week of August 9-16 reported 17 crimes for the week in what is apparently my range. This included a shooting, several thefts, and even more assaults. So far, the week of August 17 until today, August 20, there have been two shootings, one stabbing, a neighbor report of multiple gunshots (not in the vicinity of where the local news reported shootings).
Not to mention the videos that neighbors upload of folks in the neighborhood taking packages from their front doors. OR THE DRIVE-BY SHOOTING ONE PERSON’S RING CAUGHT ON VIDEO. The neighbor literally uploaded the video that showed folks shooting at another car. While I’m enjoying the fact that I now can see folks at my door before I open, I’m also finding out just how much shit goes down in my neighborhood that I was either ignoring or pretending didn’t exist.
The amount of stuff I’m learning in the, maybe, two weeks that I’ve had the Ring operating has me not feeling unsafe but uncomfortable. It just seems like I have too much information now and none of what’s happening is far enough away. It isn’t like these incidents are all a mile away; hell, most of them are less than a quarter of a mile away from my front door. It has me looking at my neighborhood a little differently, largely because of my family. While I know that most of the crime that is happening seems largely personal, the fact that so much of it is happening around me and that I have video of a lot of it has me looking at those new housing development signs dotting the side of the road differently.
Obviously, I’m not about to take the thing down. I’ve already opened this door, no pun intended, now I need to stay up on game. But I’m definitely looking at the videos on my Ring app constantly and keeping up with my neighborhood and sending videos to my wife when they truly shock me (that’s happened twice so far). It’s good to know when and where things are going down in the neighborhood. But I am absolutely thinking a lot more frequently about making moves to live in a place where I’m not getting several alerts a day of criminal incidents happening around the corner from me.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I just got a notification of motion at my front door. Let me go make sure it’s not the dude who showed up on Saturday and scared the shit out of my family by gyrating on my porch—the one video that my Ring device, oddly, didn’t catch.