A team of Johns Hopkins students took home an award at a giant hackathon in Philadelphia over the weekend with an app that’s designed to track crime hotspots in big cities.
Over 1,500 hackers, including 618 high school students, spent the weekend hunched over laptops and tinkering with hardware, surrounded by the memorabilia of the city’s usual heroes of choice — beloved sports teams with very few title wins.
Among the scores of young devs was a team of Johns Hopkins students including Ron Boger, Eric Bridgeford, Bailey Parker and Kush Gupta. The team sought to use the data made available by the hackathon in the EveryBlock API, which focuses on getting neighborhood information out. EveryBlock isn’t available in Baltimore, but the team played to the home crowd by hacking neighborhood data for Philadelphia.
Here’s the problem they tackled, from the team’s page:
Many of us live in “checkerboard” cities – cities where safe and unsafe areas alternate seamlessly. Regrettably, the existence of a few high crime areas instills fear in a city’s citizens, and keeps many citizens only in the regions they know. This limits a city economically, socially, and demographically, as many regions choose to keep to themselves. As a city scales, so does the potential for crime, and we believe that in a beautiful city like Philadelphia, no one should feel unsafe.
They came up with StrollSafe, an Android app that releases location-based crime reports for people out walking. Using OpenDataPhilly and EveryBlock info, the app overlays crime data onto a standard map. This tells users where crime hotspots are. The app also features a button labelled “I Feel Unsafe,” which automatically dials 911, or an Uber for the user who entered their data.
The app took home first prize for Best Use of the EveryBlock API. (PennApps sponsor Comcast runs EveryBlock, which explains the category.)
StrollSafe somewhat calls to mind the app SketchFactor, which drew heated criticism last year. Critics called it racist.
Boger, Gupta and other Johns Hopkins students will be hacking back in town next month at MedHacks. Boger is an organizer of the Oct. 2-4 event.