Crime-Tracking Apps Alert Users Of Nearby Danger In Real Time But Use Comes With Side Effects


A newly debuted real-time crime and fire alerting app lets users know about dangerous incidents happening around them.

New York-based tech start-up, Citizen, has launched its own brand of emergency alert service designed to automatically warn users about crimes and fires in their immediate area.

The app is already operational in Baltimore, New York City, San Francisco, and it was launched in Los Angeles earlier this week.

Citizen, The Real-Time Crime Alert App

Citizen's crime alert system works through a combination of technology and human efforts. It spends 24 hours a day scanning hundreds of public-safety radio frequencies in areas where it is deployed.

The app separates important information from non-essential ones then sends short, factual alerts to all users within a quarter mile radius from a dangerous incident.

Citizen also provides detailed updates as an event happens, and even lets people share information through live videos or comments.

Some police and local governments, especially in big cities, operate their own emergency alert systems. What sets Citizen apart from these services is how much information it can deliver and how fast it can get the message across to users. It also has a different way of collecting info from its sources.

Since the app gets its information directly from police scanners, it can immediately send out alerts to users. It has even earned a reputation for providing updates faster than local news or social media.

"Instead of just first responders getting these alerts - knowing why the helicopter is overhead, knowing why the police tape is in your neighborhood, now all of us get to know," said Andrew Frame, co-founder and CEO of Citizen.

Real-Time Updates

The Citizen app was launched as early 2016, but the app gained mainstream attention during the Trump Tower fire that happened April of last year. The fire was simultaneously livestreamed by 34 Citizen users, including one who was inside the building at the time, according to Frame.

Citizen reportedly also played a key role in alerting people about the CNN headquarters evacuation in December, and the shooting at YouTube headquarters in April.

"We know when we first came out with this, the police department hated us," Frame said. "I don't think we're still there. I don't know how much they love us, but they at least don't hate us anymore."

While the company did not reveal how it plans to make a profit through the app, it did say that it will open the service to advertisements. It also promised not to monetize information on users' location.

In 2017, Citizen was able to raise as much as $12 million following a round of funding led by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.

Vigilante, The Crime Reporting App

Before Citizen, the developers came out with a crime reporting app known as Vigilante. It was meant to give users access to emergency systems, informing them about criminal activity in their area in real time.

However, the app was quickly pulled from the App Store out of fear that it could be used for vigilantism. This includes launching violent attacks or racial profiling of people.

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