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Downtown Dover Partnership explores Ring doorbell pilot

Katie Tabeling
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The Downtown Dover Partnership has reformed its safety committee to start tackling safety issues brought up by downtown Dover business owners, like those on Loockerman Street. A new Ring video doorbell deployment is among the identified initiatives. | PHOTO BY ERIC CROSSAN

DOVER — A Ring video doorbell is standing watch on Loockerman Street, and Dover business leaders hope it’s just the first in an effort to make the downtown district a safe place.

“We want to start piloting Rings to some of the businesses so we can have ears and eyes on the street,” Alan Grinstead told the Downtown Dover Partnership (DDP) executive committee on Oct. 27. “Business owners can monitor the area and call police if there’s anything going on. Some business owners have it already, so we’re looking to expand it and see whether there’s an ability or the numbers to justify additional monitoring in the downtown district.”

The DDP ordered three Rings, or battery-powered video cameras that double as a doorbell, as part of a pilot program to give Dover business owners an option to keep an eye on their stores while away. Rings also allow users to see, hear and speak to people via a smartphone, tablet or computer.

The hope is to solicit Ring’s owner, Amazon, and hardware stores to donate enough Rings or sell them at a discount rate. Bradbury estimates it would take about 100 Rings to cover the downtown district, which stretches south of Mary Street to Water Street, and has main arteries on Division Street and Loockerman Street.

Rings are a less expensive option, since they cost $179 and use a $10 plan for video storage. Security systems can cost between $1,000 to $2,000 on average. Part of its appeal is the ability to transfer Ring viewer abilities to another user, and its Neighbors program alerts other users to crime events within 5 miles.

“Looking to the future, we see having a network of volunteers set up that can screen the footage as needed, or even keep an eye on each other’s stores when needed,” DDP operations manager Tina Bradbury told the Delaware Business Times. “It’s something that we did in the early days of the pandemic, stopping by each other’s stores to just check in.”

This pilot program is one of the first of the DDP Safety Committee’s initiatives since it was reformed in March. The committee is tasked with addressing concerns from the business community about downtown crime and the perception that it is an unsafe place.

When the DDP Safety Committee reformed they met with the Downtown Visions, a nonprofit responsible for Wilmington’s downtown business improvement district. Downtown Visions has a similar surveillance program with staff members tasked to watch the footage, which Bradbury said inspired the Dover pilot program.

Dover’s group A offenses, such as criminal homicide, robbery and aggravated assault, among others, rose 28.5% from 4,902 in 2018 to 6,299 in 2019, according to the Delaware State News. In the same time frame, shootings jumped from 16 in 2018 to 38 in 2019. In 2020, Dover police reported 60 shootings.

From July to September, there were three shootings, four fights and six reports of theft in the business district of downtown Dover, per a report from Ofc. Adalberto Aviles to the DDP in late October.

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