Software Development

These Beaver County founders want you to Make It Home Safe

Carlton and Pamela Vreen's app was partly inspired by the former's own jarring experiences with law enforcement. They recently received a $50,000 investment from Innovation Works.

Carlton Vreen.

(Courtesy photo)

One fateful morning in the 1990s, Carlton Vreen was on his way to a prayer breakfast when his car was pulled over by a law enforcement officer. He found himself surrounded by gaggle of state police, and would learn they’d profiled him as a drug dealer.

On another occasion after leaving an airport, when Vreen was asked to produce his identification, a police officer drew his weapon.

“It was humiliating, and having that negative experience made me realize that there were probably other people having the same negative experiences,” Vreen told Technical.ly. “And now that I have sons who are college graduates and young Black males, I would never want them to go through that same situation.”

Vreen was shaken by his experiences, and at the time, the Beaver County resident wished there was a way to increase transparency and reduce the tension in traffic stops. But as cell phones were still being somewhat of a novelty at the time, the technology that would be needed to make his idea a reality didn’t exist.

Pamela Vreen. (Courtesy photo)

By 2015, the technology had evolved, but traffic stops remained a source of tension — and worse. Using his decades of experience working in software as a senior IT project manager as well as his past encounters with law enforcement as a guide, Vreen and his wife, Pamela Vreen, got to work on Make It Home Safe, an application designed to share a driver’s information directly with law enforcement, and vice versa.

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Drivers can store documentation such as their driver’s license, registration and insurance info in the app, plus use safety-minded features such as video recording and the ability to share their location with up to five loved ones via text message with the touch of a button. On the other side of the interaction, an officer is using the app can communicate to the driver why they’re being stopped. Additionally, as there have been cases of predators posing as law enforcements, the app would verify the officer’s information for the driver.

(Image via Make It Home Safe)

Although Make it Home Safe began with the Black community in mind, in their research, the Vreens realized there were other populations who were also wary of possible encounters with law enforcement. Through user surveys, they found that women and people with disabilities also had their share of concerns over their safety in traffic stops. Thus, the app allows users to add notes about disabilities or health conditions.

“Parents that have children that have disabilities such as autism are concerned about how they’re gonna be read in terms of encounters with police officers,” Vreen said. “There’s real concern on a lot of ends here, not just the African American community. So I think this will address some of those fears with officers as they are conducting traffic stops on highways.”

Make It Home Safe recently earned a $50,000 investment through Innovation Works’ AlphaLab program. The app is still in its early stages with a little over a thousand users and a pilot program currently happening in Aliquippa, the Vreens said, but they have high hopes for its future. With partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University and local law enforcement, and interest from elected officials inside and outside of the state — Vreen named Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis — they believe the hunger for an application like theirs means one day it’ll be widely known and used.

“The hope is that this application will provide safety and security and peace of mind for drivers and police during traffic stops and to make this available throughout the whole nation,” Vreen said. “I want everyone in the country to have this application available in their local police department and in their hand.”


Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supportedby the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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