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Portsmouth residents enter lottery for free doorbell cameras

Chief Jenkins says just because you get a camera from the city, doesn't mean the police department automatically has access to the footage. It's all voluntary.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Amidst gun violence and officer shortages, Portsmouth is trying to take back the community through different initiatives.

The rain couldn’t keep the crowd away at the first "Roc the Block" event in Portsmouth under Interim Police Chief Stephen Jenkins’ leadership.

The plan was to walk through the Prentis Park community and inform community members about the new doorbell camera initiative. While the rain forced the walk to be rescheduled, that didn’t stop people from signing up for the lottery to get a camera plus a one-year free subscription.

"We’re going to randomly pick people based on the neighborhoods that we’re going to go into," Jenkins said.

The city has roughly 500 cameras to give away right now and is working to get more.

Sheena O'Keefe was one of the first to sign up for the lottery. She said someone broke into her home three years ago, so she's eager to get a camera and feel safe in her home.

"If we can help kind of make the city safer by letting them have access to footage, then I’m okay with that," O'Keefe said.

Community activist Darrell Redmond applauds the initiative.

"With the shortage of police enforcement and police that we have in the city, this is another tool and method to utilize to help deescalate violence in the city," he said.

On the topic of privacy, Jenkins assured residents this is all voluntary.

"Just because they get a camera from us does not give us immediate access to that camera. They still have the right to say no," said Jenkins.

If you want to share your footage with police should a crime happen in your neighborhood, the department is asking you to register your camera with them.

To enter the lottery for a doorbell camera, contact the Portsmouth Police Community Enhancement Division.

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