Community-led Ring video doorbell initiative aims to curb crime in Battle Creek

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Nakisha Newton and her daughter, Amiyah Hollins, knock on doors along Hubbard Street in Battle Creek soliciting residents to install free Ring 3 doorbells and subscriptions via the nonprofit RISE Corp on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
Nakisha Newton and her daughter, Amiyah Hollins, knock on doors along Hubbard Street in Battle Creek soliciting residents to install free Ring 3 doorbells and subscriptions via the nonprofit RISE Corp on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Nakisha Newton doesn't want anybody to ever to experience what she has been through.

Her daughter, Eniyah Hollins, was shot and killed in June 2021 while standing on the edge of a driveway during a party on Hanover Street. She was 24-years-old.

On Friday, Newton and her teenage daughter, Amiyah Hollins, were knocking on doors along Hubbard Street as part of an effort to better deter and prosecute crime in Battle Creek's northside neighborhoods. They were canvassing on behalf of the nonprofit RISE Corp., signing up residents interested in having a free Ring 3 video doorbell installed along with a free subscription.

"I feel like no parent should have to endure the experience of burying their child," Newton said. "For me to be able to participate in this program and have a positive outcome for a senseless crime gives me a little bit of peace... This is great to bring our community and neighborhoods together to enforce safety so nobody else will have to go through something this tragic."

According to Newton, video doorbells helped detectives in identifying witnesses and eventually a suspect in her daughter's homicide. The Ring doorbell-camera wireless devices can stream real-time video to a user's smartphone, tablet or desktop, allowing homeowners to see and talk to people on their doorsteps.

The Ring Video Doorbell 3.
The Ring Video Doorbell 3.

Unlike other Ring programs that have partnered with police departments, Battle Creek's Ring Doorbell initiative is a community-led effort. It was launched by Damon Brown, co-founder of RISE Corp., an organization focused on helping at-risk youth realize their potential.

"I got this idea from a tragic situation," Brown said. "I'm 43 years old, born and raised here. Primarily lived in Washington Heights and I've seen a lot. I've lost some of my best friends to these streets right here in this neighborhood; I've been shot before; 12 years in prison; even since I've been home doing community work, I've seen a lot.... I can't sit back and not do anything.

"We want people to understand this is a no-fly zone. Meaning, it doesn't fly here. You can't come to this community with this nonsense."

Damon Brown, co-founder of the nonprofit RISE Corp., breaks down the Ring doorbell distribution program to a group of canvassers inside Washington Heights United Methodist Church in Battle Creek, Mich. on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
Damon Brown, co-founder of the nonprofit RISE Corp., breaks down the Ring doorbell distribution program to a group of canvassers inside Washington Heights United Methodist Church in Battle Creek, Mich. on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

A group of RISE volunteers began canvassing the week of Jan. 17 and thus far has signed up over 400 residents in the city's "District D," a police term that represents the section of the community that encompasses Limit Street to North Avenue and Dickman Road and Coolidge Avenue to Orchard Park. The canvassers are taking down names, addresses and phone numbers of those interested in having the wireless Ring 3 devices installed in March.

The rollout for the Ring project is being paid for through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Catalyzing Community Giving initiative, with Ring donating an additional 100 devices. Brown said the organization is also partnering with the city of Battle Creek, the Battle Creek Community Foundation, the Binda Foundation and Washington Heights United Methodist Church (where RISE is based), and is seeking additional funding to continue the program indefinitely.

"If we can give it to the whole community, we would," said Sharon Miller, volunteer coordinator for the program. "I think we're going to get more responses because it really is needed. It's a beautiful thing and it brings tears to my eyes."

Richard Smith and Jermahn Williams canvas the Washington Heights neighborhood to solicit residents to sign up for a free Ring 3 doorbell and subscription offered through the nonprofit RISE Corp. on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
Richard Smith and Jermahn Williams canvas the Washington Heights neighborhood to solicit residents to sign up for a free Ring 3 doorbell and subscription offered through the nonprofit RISE Corp. on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Ring launched in 2013 and boasts millions of users. Critics have raised privacy concerns about the devices amid fears of putting neighborhoods under constant surveillance. Brown noted that residents who sign up are the owners of the devices and own the rights to the footage, and can thus refuse to share it with authorities.

Sherri Brown was at her home on Hubbard Street on Friday when canvassers knocked on her door, and promptly signed up to have the device installed.

"A lot of single people around the area and I'm one of them, and this will come in handy," she said. "I don't like people unexpectedly popping up at the house. The camera would help... We need this in our community. It's a good opportunity to help us. I really do appreciate them doing this for our area around here."

Volunteers pose for a photo at Washington Heights United Methodist Church in Battle Creek before canvassing neighborhoods to sign community members up for free Ring doorbells and subscriptions.
Volunteers pose for a photo at Washington Heights United Methodist Church in Battle Creek before canvassing neighborhoods to sign community members up for free Ring doorbells and subscriptions.

Contact reporter Nick Buckley at nbuckley@battlecreekenquirer.com or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley

This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: Ring video doorbell initiative aims to curb crime in Battle Creek

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