Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Neighbourhood Crime Reporting App Citizen Is Testing On-Demand Security Force

Joseph Cox, Vice:

Crime and neighborhood watch app Citizen has ambitions to deploy private security workers to the scene of disturbances at the request of app users, according to leaked internal Citizen documents and Citizen sources.

The plans mark a dramatic expansion of Citizen’s purview. It is currently an app where users report “incidents” in their neighborhoods and, based on those reports and police scanner transcriptions, the app sends “real-time safety alerts” to users about crime and other incidents happening near where a user is located. It is essentially a mapping app that allows users to both report and learn about crime (or what users of the app perceive to be crime) in their neighborhood. The introduction of in-person, private security forces drastically alters the service, and potential impact, that Citizen may offer in the future, and provides more context as to why a Citizen-branded vehicle has been spotted driving around Los Angeles. The news comes after Citizen offered a $30,000 bounty against a person it falsely accused of starting a wildfire.

Citizen is pitching this as a way to have a private security escort in sketchy situations — Uber but for bodyguards — but you can bet that it will not be taking responsibility for the actions of the security forces it contracts with. Like Uber has for many years, Citizen will surely emphasize that it is a platform and that these private police forces are third-party companies. You can see this as entirely my own speculation, but you know this is how things work.

There is something cartoonishly dangerous about this whole project. This is some police officer cosplay for the rich, with private security forces driving around in a blacked-out Ford Explorer covered in Citizen branding and a slogan — “Making Your World a Safer Place” — that sounds like it was ripped off from a sci-fi quasi-military force. It would be funny if it were not so alarming.