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Apps / Public safety

Public safety app Citizen is now live in Philly

Philadelphia is the fifth city where the previously controversial app — which gives users real-time notifications about nearby crime, emergencies and ongoing incidents — has gone live.

Screenshots of what users in Philly see when opening the app. (Screenshot)
Correction: Baltimore investor Ben Jealous was a gubernatorial candidate, not mayoral candidate. (4/19/19, 12:57 p.m.)

A public safety app for mobile devices called Citizen has launched its service in Philadelphia, marking the fifth U.S. city where users can get real-time notifications about nearby crime, emergencies and ongoing incidents.

According to the company’s site, the app shows users incident data from publicly available sources. All crime reports you see on the app come from publicly available 911 report data with an added layer of real-time curation provided by staff analysts.

“We are bringing Citizen to Philadelphia to keep residents both safe and informed,” said Praveen Arichandran, the company’s head of growth. “What fuels us are people getting the right information, at the right point in time, enabling them to avoid danger and to be smart about their own safety.”

In February, the app also launched its platform in Baltimore with support from local investor and former gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous. It’s also live in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

A quick scan of the app on Thursday afternoon showed a varied list of ongoing incidents — from a phone stolen from a Center City AT&T store or a missing case of Red Bull in the Washington Square area, to a group of men fighting in Kensington or a reported break-in in West Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the availability of the app.

While the app — formerly known as Vigilante — encourages users to become aware of police activity in their neighborhoods, it also calls upon users to livestream what’s happening once conditions are safe.

However, “Citizen does not condone users putting themselves in harm’s way in order to record videos,” the company warns on its website. “User safety is our first priority.”

Hefty caveat: This app stirred up plenty of controversy when it was first introduced in 2016. For one, it was called … Vigilante. That paired with its video feature seemed to indicate that users should be using the app to interrupt crime as it was happening. Though the app appears to have purposefully strayed from that messaging to instead emphasize a mission of safety, FFS, use common sense when you see something dangerous happening.


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