Citizen–the crime tracker app that originated in New York City–announced in a blog post that it has expanded to Baltimore.
The app allows users to receive real-time crime and emergency notifications in their communities. The app churns out nearly 2 million safety alerts each day to its users, and now with Baltimore added to its list of cities, those numbers are expected to grow.
Citizen, formerly known as Vigilante, currently has 600,000 active users. Last year, the app took its talents to San Francisco. Although there have been instances where the app has helped people avoid danger and find missing family members, some are worried that the app will amplify racial biases, especially in the Baltimore area.
Citizen works to prevent this by excluding information that would identify victims or complainants in notifications. When information in unconfirmed, Citizen notes the alerts as an “unconfirmed report.” The alert does not include generic suspect descriptions.
“For example, Citizen would not include a suspect description of three Asian men wanted for a burglary in the past,” a spokesperson for Citizen said. “We would include a description of a White man, 6’4, with a gray vest and orange hat, carrying a rifle, because that is a specific description of an individual [that] members of the public can use to stay safe.”
Ben Jealous, an advisor for Citizen and a former NAACP president, said there’s no worries of “sketch” or suspicious person reports on the app.
” It’s the best thing to happen to urban missing person reports I have ever seen,” Jealous said in a statement to AfroTech. “[It] literally saving lives from infants to age 103.”
Citizen also refrains from posting alerts about suicides in private places and panhandling and other happenings that are not necessarily dangers to the public.
Citizen users receive alerts of incidents happening within a quarter of a mile. They can also choose to get notifications about neighborhoods that they frequent, even if they are not in that particular location.
Baltimore has one of the heaviest populations of Black people in the nation. According to the United States Census Bureau, Black residents make up 63 percent of the population. Crimes rates in Baltimore are also some of the highest in the nation, making the city an ideal location for apps like Citizen.
“Given the escalating crime and lack of public safety resources, Baltimore was a great place to try something new,” Citizen CEO Andrew Frame said.