Admit it. You only clicked on the title because of the Batman part. Naturally, who wouldn’t want to be Batman. As they say: “The most important thing in life is to be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.” And you know what? They’re right.
So to address the elephant in the room—Yes, you can indeed become a crime-fighting vigilante thanks to a safety app. Sort of. Perhaps not just in the way you’d expect. (It’s still pretty good though.)
Are safety apps opening ways for would-be vigilantes?
But let us start at the beginning. Last October, an app appeared on the App Store aimed at preventing crime. Although it was removed after only two days, it still managed to stir attention.
Called Vigilante, the app showed users where crime was happening in real life—and seemingly encourage them to help stop it. The app provided live video reports from crime scenes and near instant alerts to help people avoid becoming victims.
Sounds innocent enough, right? Only in theory. Vigilante went viral after a controversial promotional video appeared that showed actors using the app to prevent a would-be mugging.
In the end, the name of the app is also partly to blame. According the company’s CEO, the name Vigilante distracted people from the app’s core mission, which is to protect people and cities—not to encourage vigilantism. So they changed it.
Vigilante is back on the App Store now, under the new name Citizen. We can only hope that after the name change the app will encourage its users to be good citizens instead of good vigilantes.
Smart cities are already here. Data-driven approaches to safety in cities are an indispensable part of it.
So how does Citizen work? Once a call is made to 911, it lights up an area on your map. In the case you’re anywhere near an incident, it’ll also notify you of possible danger.
Currently, the app is only available in New York but according to the Citizen CEO, he’s had inquiries “from all 50 states” in the US about launching in other cities. The main reason why it’s only available in NYC is that the company wants to get a better idea of how people are using this app.
In any case, Citizen is already incredibly popular. Since its launch in March, almost 50k users have already downloaded it. This number is quite astonishing considering the limited area where it’s fully operational.
However, the integration with the NYPD is where the true potential of the app starts to shine. The communication between the police department and citizens allows for collection of data that truly shape the smart city of today.
People in NYC are regularly using Citizen to check up on dangerous situations in their neighbourhoods. The app really shows that the solution is already in existence and ready to use. Once the responsible institutions take the first step, things begin to move surprisingly quickly. It’s another step towards the city shaped by real data, not by decisions of few elected bureaucrats.
Batman or Kick-Ass? Safety apps are creating citizen networks where everyone is responsible for everyone’s safety.
With the help of these technologies, everyone can become co-responsible for the safety in their neighbourhoods. The way people from Citizen say it, “it’s putting community back in community, where people are working together and people are staying safe and creating safety through this sort of citizen network we’ve created.” Fine. I know it might sound like a long stretch but doesn’t it make each of us a vigilante in one way or another?