Tech giant Amazon has partnered with literally hundreds of police forces in the U.S. via its home surveillance subsidiary Ring, in some cases helping to orchestrate package theft sting operations with the goal of getting people arrested.
Now, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Prince George, B.C. has arrested a 37-year-old man using "surveillance technology" provided by Amazon in a package theft sting that involved company-provided boxes and products, and the help of select residents. Amazon "provided packaging, real products and surveillance technology to assist [officers] in identifying and arresting those persons responsible for these types of thefts," a recent press release stated.
The RCMP detachment called the Amazon sting partnership the "first of its kind" in Canada, suggesting that the tech giant's reach with police is extending across the border.
The general contours of the RMCP operation in Prince George sound similar to package stings conducted by police in several U.S. cities including Jersey City, NJ, Hayward, CA, Aurora, CO, and more. In places such as Hayward, GPS-bugged packages from Amazon did the trick. In others, such as Aurora, police got Ring cameras as well.
Cpl. Craig Douglass of the Prince George RCMP would not provide details on the technology used in the sting operation. The CBC reported that the RCMP used GPS trackers in the Prince George stings, but didn't mention Ring cameras. In a photo accompanying the release about the package sting, a Prince George RCMP officer is seen posing with Amazon boxes as well as Ring cameras, which are prominently displayed.
Douglass said that an officer from the detachment contacted the tech giant after discovering it was working with police in New York. Earlier this month, police in Long Island announced an anti-package theft partnership with Amazon that involved getting access to Ring's Neighbors platform, where users share surveillance footage. This is just one of several forms that partnerships between Amazon and police take, and the Neighbors app is currently unavailable in Canada. You can pick up a Ring doorbell from Canadian Tire for $249.99 CAD, however.
Douglass said that Amazon does not receive data from the unnamed surveillance technology used by the Prince George detachment. "They are not a policing partner and privacy laws do not allow for us to share this information with them," he said.
Documents viewed by Motherboard in earlier reporting show that the purpose of such stings was explicitly to arrest people and generate media coverage. For a company like Ring, fear isn't a bad thing.
"We appreciate the effort by local law enforcement to tackle package theft in their communities, and we will continue to support efforts to ensure law enforcement have the tools they need," Amazon spokesperson Andrew Gouveia said in an email, and directed further questions to the RCMP.
Spokespeople for Ring referred us to Amazon PR.
Douglass said that the Prince George detachment still has the necessary Amazon-provided equipment and "will continue to deploy it in our community."
"We hope this initiative will help us arrest more thieves locally," Douglass said. "Having said that, if other detachments or police forces try this, we wish them success too."